For much of the Indianapolis MotoGP race, Valentino Rossi was set to lose almost all of his world championship lead.

While Yamaha team-mate and title rival Jorge Lorenzo led the way, Rossi was back in fourth, meaning 12 of his 13-point advantage would disappear.

But the Italian put in a charge to catch and eventually pass Dani Pedrosa, while the other Repsol Honda of Marc Marquez overtook Lorenzo with 3 laps to go.

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Lorenzo was unable to respond to Marquez, but Pedrosa was quick to retaliate against Rossi and The Doctor only secured the podium place by re-passing the RCV rider on the final lap.

That gave a somewhat relieved Rossi a nine-point lead over Lorenzo, with eight rounds to go.

"For a lot laps Jorge was in front of Marc and I was behind Dani so I could lose more points than this, but looking from practice already fourth was not so bad!" said Rossi, who had qualified just eighth on the grid.

"But I felt good. We improved the setting this morning and I knew I can have a good pace. I saw that Dani tried to go with Marc and Jorge but he had some points on the track where he wasn't strong enough.

"I knew that these three points [for third] were a lot more important for me than him. I gave the maximum and caught him but after it was difficult, also physically, but I had pushed the tyres a lot and when I arrive with Dani I was in a bit in trouble.

"I tried two or three times to get away, but always Dani came back. The last time I try it was impossible and it was the last lap. Fortunately I had two or three points on the track where I could attack him.

"It was a hard battle. I enjoy. It is another podium. This is so important because was a difficult weekend where Jorge and Marc are always stronger than me. So losing just nine [Marquez] and four points [Lorenzo] is not so bad."

Honda riders have now won at Indianapolis for the last six years, meaning Marquez's success was hardly a surprise, but Rossi knows he shouldn't be starting so far back. Indianapolis was the fourth time this season he has qualified in eighth place.

"We know that here in Indianapolis we have to suffer, but we hope to suffer less, especially in practice. Because if I am able to start in the second row everything is more easy. So we have to work because this is my weak point."

Rossi hadn't been able to get within half-a-second of the top lap time throughout practice and qualifying, but jumped to within 0.222s of Marquez's new lap record in the race.

"We started from too far [back] on Friday," confirmed Rossi, who had been tenth after day one. "Because afterwards on Saturday we were able to find a good balance and this morning we made another step.

"Sincerely my bike in the race was good. I was able to do a lot of laps in '32.8s, which is a pace which was impossible during the practice."

Rossi will be back on track in just five days time for opening practice at Brno in the Czech Republic.