Valentino Rossi said he was very encouraged by the progress he made in Thursday practice at Losail. The Ducati convert had only been 13th at the end of the prerace test earlier this week, but he improved his pace in today's first official session to end up fifth.
"We're all pretty satisfied with this first free practice because we worked well throughout the entire session, progressively improving with each outing," said Rossi. "We modified the setup a little compared to the test, and we immediately found it to be better, to the point that within just a few laps, I improved on my time from Monday. The last run was particularly positive and my final lap time, done with a hard tire that had 19 laps on it, was my best, a bit more than a tenth off second place."
He acknowledged that the front of the field remained some distance away, but is now fired up to try and close the gap before qualifying.
"We know that if we want to have a good race on Sunday, we have to cut another five tenths, and we'll try to do that tomorrow," said Rossi. "Anyway, although we still have to improve some more things on the bike, now I don't have to push so hard and it is turning better."
Rossi was also buoyed by his physical condition, feeling his injured shoulder was coping better in practice today than it had in the test.
"The shoulder is holding up well," he said. "It was only at the end that it started to lose a little strength, and tomorrow we'll see how it reacts with two practice sessions. In any case, we're happy today."