Valentino Rossi was happy with his overall pace as the Movistar Yamaha rider ended the opening day of free practice at Brno fifth quickest.
Rossi lapped in 1m 56.174s as he finished three tenths down on Marc Marquez but the nine-time world champion feels his race pace is currently stronger.
“At this moment, I think that the best pace is from me, Jorge [Lorenzo] and [Andrea] Iannone, but it's just Friday, you know? [Maverick] Viñales is not so bad, [Andrea] Dovizioso is faster with the new tyre, and after have some more problems,” said Rossi.
Marquez acknowledged that he had work to do
to match the Yamahas on used tyres, with Rossi stating:
“Big question mark for Márquez, because this morning was not so fast, and this afternoon he suffer a lot all the practice. But at the end, he put the right tyres, he changed the front tyre, he changed the rear tyre and he did two fantastic laps.
“So now we need to understand, but I think that if he did those two laps, with that setting on the bike he can be faster also on the race pace. But I think it's just Friday, it's a long way to Sunday, it will be very important to make the right work and the right choice.”
Rossi expects tyre choice to play an even bigger role than normal this weekend in the Czech Republic, with several viable options available front and rear.
“I was very curious, because in the past here in Brno, the Michelin suffer a lot compared to Bridgestone. But today the feeling was good, and also the lap time level was not so bad, we were already quite fast.
“This afternoon we worked a lot, we still have a lot of work to do for sure, first of all because the option with the tyres is very open,” Rossi said.
“We have three options on the front that can be possible for the race, and two tyres for the rear, so this can be very important. And also try to work on the bike to try to improve. Before you have to decide the tyre, then after you can help the tyre with the setting of the bike.
“Also this afternoon was not so bad, at the end I was fifth. But my lap time was quite good, we are very close, I think we are six or seven riders with good pace. My pace is not so bad.”
Rossi celebrated the 20th anniversary of his maiden Grand Prix success in Austria but the 37-year-old, who is currently third in the MotoGP world championship, says he has lost none of his motivation.
“I try to concentrate two years by two years maximum. Sincerely, if they say to me when I was 18 that I would still be here after 20 years, I say that maybe it's impossible. Also because when I was 18, I look at people who are 37 and think they are my grandfather! But after, it's not like this.
“My bigger motivation is trying to improve my performance and try to be stronger, because in the last years, I wasn't very strong in Brno. That's a shame, because it's a track that I like,” he said.
“So in the last years, I was able to arrive on the podium, but I was never able to stay close to Lorenzo. So I want to try to be competitive like him, and after we seen on Sunday what will happen. But the target remains trying to arrive on the podium, because in Austria, I want to arrive on the podium, but I wasn't able.”
The Doctor admitted he was impressed by Marquez's spectacular save after the Honda rider almost came off at turn 13 during FP2 and joked that he doesn't lose the front because he 'goes slower'.
“For me, is something he tries a lot, his position on the bike, and his ability. Because first he tried with the elbow, then with the knee, and at the end, he saved it. So it was quite impressive. I don't know if I can do the same. But I go slower, so I don't lose the front!”
Rossi had a lap time scrapped for running outside the track limits in FP2 but said afterwards that the situation had not been made clear ahead of Friday practice.
“Was not clear, simply because nobody say nothing to us, and have no indication. And usually the track is cancelled if you go over the kerb. But in this case, a lot of riders have the lap cancelled because the kerb finish but still have some asphalt, and I understand the situation in the afternoon, so I will try to fix tomorrow to stay one meter more inside, because I don't know that that asphalt is out of the track.
“But anyway, I think it is a good work, because for that place, it was dangerous with the gravel, because it's very fast. Now it's just that now we know, and we try to stay more on the track.”