Valentino Rossi salvaged a 'not bad' fourth place from ninth on the grid, in Sunday's Japanese MotoGP.

While Rossi and factory Yamaha team-mate Maverick Vinales were unable to repeat their strong Buriram form, the Italian 'made a step' in morning warm-up and held a podium position during the early stages of the race.

He was then overtaken by both Suzuki riders, Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins - regaining one place when Iannone fell and another when Andrea Dovizioso slid out of second on the penultimate lap.

Rossi finished as the top Yamaha rider (for the ninth time this season), crossing the finish line just under five-seconds behind Rins, with Tech3's Johann Zarco sixth and Vinales seventh.

"Fourth place is not a bad result. I think that we've worked well today, because this morning we made another step and I felt better with the bike," said Rossi.

"So, I started the race quite optimistically, trying to fight for the podium. Unfortunately some other riders were faster than me. I tried to not give up, not to make any mistakes and to arrive at the end of the race with a good pace."

While Honda's Marc Marquez won the race and title on Sunday, Rossi is now just nine points from Dovizioso for runner-up in the world championship, despite not winning a race since Assen last year.

"First of all, I would like to congratulate Marc Márquez and the Repsol Honda Team," said Movistar Yamaha team director Massimo Meregalli.

"For us it was a challenging race weekend. Valentino made a step in the morning and started the race perfectly. He was feeling good with the bike and was positioned at the front in the early stages, but he came just short of being able to battle with the front runners.

"For Maverick we decided to take a risk on the set-up that ultimately didn't pay off. We had hoped to end today differently. However, Vale and Maverick are still serious contenders for second and third place in the rider standings, so we still have a lot to fight for next weekend in Australia."

Vinales is third in the world championship and 30-points from Rossi, with three rounds to go.