Valentino Rossi feels he must urgently get on top of set-up issues that are leaving him unable to match his Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo's race pace, after the Spaniard won again in France.
Lorenzo's back to back wins at Jerez and Le Mans have given him a nine-point early advantage over Qatar winner Rossi in the standings. Rossi admitted that although he had taken pole and led Lorenzo initially in France, he never expected to be able to win.
"I did a great start and I tried to stay in front because I understand from the bike that I didn't have the same pace," he said. "I knew there was no way to stay in front for 28 laps."
The MotoGP champion has been hampered by shoulder pain in recent races following a Motocross accident in April, but he said that at Le Mans his fitness was not as costly an issue as the bike's lacked of pace on acceleration.
"I was especially worried about my shoulder, but it was not so bad -- just for the last seven or eight laps and already the race was finished [by then]," said Rossi. "The bigger problem is with the setup. We don't have enough grip under acceleration to stay with Jorge, so we have to understand why and try to make it better."
Rossi was pleased that he was at least staying in touch with Lorenzo in the points, and expressed his surprise that Casey Stoner had crashed for the second time in three rounds, leaving the Ducati number one trailing in the championship already.
"Nine points is better to have as an advantage than a disadvantage, but the championship is so long," said Rossi. "What I didn't expect is to be fighting just with Jorge. After the winter I'd expect Stoner, maybe also Dani [Pedrosa], but especially Stoner, to be closer.
"Sometimes, on some races and some days, you don't have enough speed to try to win. In the past with different bikes and different tires, it was possible to invent something during the race. Now if you don't have the pace, you just crash, so these 20 points are not bad."