While small improvements saw Valentino Rossi return to the MotoGP rostrum he feels the Yamaha-friendly Le Mans circuit was the biggest factor helping his charge.

The Movistar Yamaha rider claimed his first rostrum since the 2018 season opener in Qatar with third place in France behind Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez and Pramac Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci while three rivals crashed out ahead of him.

Rossi was pleased with set-up tweaks which gave him a stronger Yamaha package at Le Mans to fight for the podium but concedes the breakthroughs will be short-lived as they were circuit-specific.

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“The podium is always important but arrives in a difficult technical moment for us,” Rossi said. “It is important for me, for the team and for all of Yamaha. After a good weekend in qualifying I was slow and started from ninth position and I was quite pessimistic as the work we did on Saturday in the end was not good.

“Yesterday we worked hard and make some modifications to the bike and it worked well and improved a lot. It improved the acceleration and the grip. This morning in the warm-up it was not so bad as I was P5 and my pace was not so bad.

“I would prefer to say it is good for other race tracks but unfortunately it is the race track that has helped us a lot. We don’t have particular problems, our problems are that our opponents are a little bit faster so we have to work.

“In Mugello historically it is a good track for Yamaha so it will be a special weekend, it is a great track and we will try, we will hope we can improve the bike during the season.”

The nine-time world champion did take comfort from finding a stronger race rhythm and consistency which helped him challenge race “target” Petrucci.

“What was more positive was that my rhythm was good and I was able to go faster than in practice, especially as I was able to go fast until the end which is so important,” he said.

“This track for us is usually fantastic, last year Yamaha dominated despite my crash as we would have arrived first, second and third. This helps a lot with our bike so we have to work to improve the bike but I enjoyed the race.

“Danilo was always my target for all the race because I overtook at the start but he overtook me again at the first chicane. In my calculations he was the target for the podium. Without some crashes I wasn’t going to be on the podium but I wanted to try to beat him.

“I gave my maximum and did some good laps 10 and 12 from the end so I was not so far from Danilo but after that he was a little bit faster so it was not enough for me.”

Rossi has moved up to fourth in the MotoGP riders’ championship, with just three points splitting the Italian to teammate Maverick Vinales in second, as Marquez pulls out a 36-point lead at the top of the standings.

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