Come the end of a “very good” showing that resulted in fourth place, Valentino Rossi felt the Czech Grand Prix served as an ominous portent with Ducati’s second 1-2 finish of the year convincing the 39-year old that Andrea Dovizioso is the biggest threat to his second place in the MotoGP world championship.

Rossi started well, led in the early laps, and was engaged in a tense, frenetic five-way fight for the podium places for two thirds of the 21-lap outing at Brno. But those familiar failings regarding his Yamaha M1's rear tyre management were evident here in the closing laps as the Italian struggled to hold the pace of Dovizioso, Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez.

With team-mate Maverick Viñales’ first DNF of the year coming today, and Johann Zarco capable of placing no higher than seventh, the result solidified Rossi’s advantage over the rest in second place. Now it is today's victor Dovizioso - third and 19 points behind - of whom the Movistar man is most wary.

“Today was good because I increased my advantage on Maverick and also Zarco,” said Rossi, who stole fourth place from Cal Crutchlow with a daring final corner move. “It looks like the bigger problem for my second place is Dovi for the second half of the season, and also Lorenzo. You know, we are here to try to win the championship so we don’t give up, for sure. It will be difficult with Marc.”

On the race as a whole, Rossi offered, “You know, I think my race was very good. Also the start and on the first lap I was competitive and I stayed in front. But unfortunately when the rear tyre lost a little bit of grip and start to slide, for us it’s difficult the acceleration, we started to lose there. Unfortunately I wasn’t strong enough for the podium.

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“After the practice we know [this]. We know that Marquez and the two Ducatis were stronger than me. I tried. I used the hard rear that is the right choice. I did a very good battle with Crutchlow. At the end I was able to overtake him. But unfortunately it was not enough for the podium.

“I expect, and especially I hope that they [Ducati] suffer more. But the Ducatis were very fast. Dovi ride very well, and especially Lorenzo. He did a very good race. At the end of the race they were faster.

“I expect a faster race, to go faster. But everybody managed very much the tyres. If you push 100 percent it’s possible that you have a lot of trouble. With a little bit less temperature it was a bit more easy, but not a big difference.”

How did he see the performance of his M1 when he had the chance to closely observe Ducati’s GP18 and Honda’s RC213V from up close? “From this point of view, today was an important race, a good race because I followed Dovi, I followed Marquez, I followed Lorenzo, I followed Crutchlow.

“But it’s everything that I already know. When they open the throttle they are able to accelerate in a better way, they are able to use the tyre in a better way and this is where we suffer. Our bike, in terms of balance and mechanically, is very good. In fact, in the qualifying we are always competitive. But in the second half of the race unfortunately we have to improve.”

And now to Austria, with the first free practice session at the Red Bull Ring coming in less than five days’ time. Rossi didn’t sound overly hopeful: “For me, Austria is one of the worst tracks of the season for the Yamaha. I think that we will have to suffer.

“You have slow corners and long straight. For us it is the worst situation. Tomorrow we don’t have nothing special unfortunately, but we have some small details that will be very important to try make a small step to be competitive also in Austria.”

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