Valentino Rossi believes he is closer to the outright pace than it appeared on Friday after he ended the day in tenth place at Indianapolis. The Ducati rider continued his usual strategy of running the entire second session on the hard tyres and with wear expected to be critical on Sunday, Rossi feels well set.

“We lowered our time by two seconds in the afternoon because the track’s grip was improving lap by lap, and I think we’ll see the same tomorrow. The feeling of riding is better compared to last year, but we’re still having a very hard time with corner entry, especially in the lefthanders. We’re also losing a lot on the exits of the two slow corners. This afternoon, I used the same hard tyre the whole time in order to check its performance after many laps, because I don’t think it will be possible to do the whole race with the soft. Anyway, tomorrow we’ll try it. We have a number of things to sort out, but the second group isn’t far off.”

Teammate Nicky Hayden was fractionally faster than Rossi in ninth but lamented a lack of front grip which prevented him from getting nearer to the satellite bikes ahead of him.

“It’s nice to be back with the team and on the bike. This morning things went pretty well. With the rain last night, it took a while to dry out the track and get some rubber down, but we got going okay. This afternoon we tried a couple of things, but we didn’t make a big step like we had hoped. We got some more grip in the rear, but then we started to push the front worse. We improved by a second, but everyone else improved a lot more. Some of these corners are really connected, and it’s important to get the bike to turn, because if you mess up the first one, the problem gets exaggerated. We need to understand why we’re having this turning issue and hopefully do a good step tomorrow.”