MotoGP Australia: Rossi ninth, but ‘sincerely quite happy’.

Valentino Rossi was left seven places and 0.6s behind title rival Jorge Lorenzo on day one of the Australian MotoGP. But the final Friday practice positions didn't reflect the true pace, with all eight riders ahead of Rossi fitting a new rear tyre in the closing stages of FP2 - including three competitors with access to the special Open class soft tyre. The world championship leader clocked a best lap of 1m 30.041s at the stunning Phillip Island circuit, putting the Italian 0.658s from Marc Marquez, with Lorenzo a fraction slower than the Honda rider. 

“Sincerely I was quite happy. My pace was not so bad. I was constant and also with the used tyre I as quite fast,” Rossi said. “I'm not happy about my position because I'm not strong enough in the hot lap. 

“Also I had to put the [new] tyre very early because I had a small problem with the front and a lot of people put the new tyre at the end and were able to improve the lap time. So I finished ninth, but anyway it is important to stay in the first ten positions in case of bad weather tomorrow morning.” 

Pressed further on the 'real' time difference to Movistar Yamaha team-mate Lorenzo, without the effect of new tyres, Rossi replied: 

“About the pace not a lot. But anyway he is a little bit faster today. Especially he is able to use the new tyre in a good way and is a little more than half a second [ahead]. But for me about the pace we are not so far, more similar. 

“For sure we have to work because also Jorge tomorrow will improve, Marquez is also fast about the pace, so is still early. All is open. Now we have just to think and hope for good weather tomorrow to continue to work.” 

That work includes evaluating different set-ups for his YZR-M1. 

“I have two different settings. One is to try to spin less and the other one is to try to make the corner faster,” Rossi explained. “We have to understand the way to go faster, if we have to concentrate on trying to spin less, or trying to ride in a better way and not care a lot about the spin.” 

Wheelspin is a concern for most riders this weekend, the general consensus being that Bridgestone have offered conservative rear tyre compounds ever since the disastrous 2013 race. 

“Here the rear tyre, to resist the stress, is very hard,” Rossi confirmed. “So it's difficult because it spins, slides and moves a lot.” 

Compounding the wheel spin is Sunday's late 4pm race time, which caused temperatures to plummet by the end of last year's race, causing a spate of front end falls for those with the asymmetric front tyre. 

As a result, Bridgestone has softened its asymmetric tyre for this season, which now consists mainly of the extra-soft compound with the soft compound only on the left edge. This asymmetric is the 'medium' front option this weekend, sitting between the symmetric extra-soft and soft options. 

“Last year [the 4pm start time] was a problem especially with the front. In fact this year everybody is very curious about the new asymmetric front, but the feeling is quite good,” Rossi said. “But yes, if the temperature drops the spin increases.” 

But the first obstacle will be to claim a good grid position during Saturday's qualifying, when the soft rear tyre could allow the Ducatis and Suzukis to challenge the usual Honda and Yamaha pace setters. 

"Already today the softer tyre gave a big advantage," Rossi confirmed. "So especially tomorrow afternoon will be very, very important to try not to lose too many positions because not just the Ducatis but also the Suzukis are very strong in the one lap." 

Rossi, winner at Phillip Island last season, has an 18-point advantage over Lorenzo but refuses to name a favourite. 

“In reality the way of the championship is very similar from the beginning to the end; sometimes he beat me, sometimes I beat him, and the points remain very close,” Rossi said. “For me, now it is difficult to say who is the favourite. I have a small advantage in the points, but in three races everything can happen.” 


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