Valentino Rossi produced his best FP3 performance of the season so far at Brno, where a fifth place on the 'unbelievably' close timesheets allowed him to safely sail through to Qualifying 2.

The Monster Yamaha rider had been only twelfth fastest on Friday and, despite improving early in FP3, was pushed back outside the top ten heading into the crucial closing minutes.

But having anticipated a big battle, Rossi had saved two new soft rear tyres for the end of the session. The tactic worked, with Rossi's last lap of the morning (after a late pit stop for the second soft rear) putting him just 0.113s from fastest man Franco Morbidelli.

"The FP3 is always a very important practice, because we have to stay in the top 10," said Rossi, who is continuing with his new style of set-up from Andalucia. "This morning was good, because we improved the bike a lot. I have a better feeling and I have a good pace, also with the race tyres.

"The time attack at the end was good. The level of competition is incredible, because the top 10 is covered by two tenths, so this is unbelievable. I did a good lap and finishing in P5 is good for this afternoon, and we‘ll try to continue like this."

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Team-mate Maverick Vinales' Saturday morning fortunes went in the other direction, slipping from fifth on Friday to ninth after FP3 - but still enough to head straight to Qualifying 2 this afternoon.

"My feelings aren‘t really the ones I wanted. I struggle with the bike, I have a lot of movement, especially from the rear tyre," explained the double Jerez runner-up, who was nonetheless only 0.245s from Morbidelli.

"We have to try something different in FP4. We have an idea that makes me feel very positive. We have a good chance in qualifying, we need to be on the first row. But anyway, the rhythm is the most important, so in FP4 we‘re going to work on this.

"I think we have a good opportunity to be fast, and then we will see. I feel fantastic on the bike, I just don‘t have the feeling that I had in Jerez. We are trying to be there, we are trying to be fast, and we will try our maximum in FP4 and especially in Q2."

Petronas Yamaha's Morbidelli was fastest in FP3 with team-mate and title lead Fabio Quartararo in third behind Johann Zarco (Avintia Ducati).