Valentino Rossi’s miserable first season aboard a Ducati ended in aValenciagravel trap after crashing on the opening lap of the season ending race. His 2012 season started today inMalaysiawith the Italian testing at the Sepang circuit.
Rossi ended the day fifth fastest, less than 0.75s off the pace of Jorge Lorenzo, but feeling confident about the potential of his new mount:
“I’m happy because first impressions are important,” said the nine times world champion. ”Already in the first few laps, I could tell that I like the bike. Ducati did a good job in a just a short time. The bike is beautiful, but more importantly, it’s nice to ride”
One of Rossi’s biggest problems with the GP11, in all of its various guises, was the riding position. While never feeling comfortable on the bike Rossi was never truly confident in how the bike would react. On a Grand Prix motorcycle which weights 145kg the ability for a rider who weights 70kgs to maneuvere on the machine is crucial. The new bike however might have solved this problem for Rossi:
“The riding position has improved a lot,” continued Rossi in his post test debrief. “It’s better on braking and corner entry. I can brake like I want to and take the lines that I like, and I feel comfortable in general.”
Last year saw Rossi crash often due to a lack of feeling from the bike but in the opening test he was much more confidence. The front end woes that have plagued Ducati in recent years also seem to have been improved with Rossi saying that he was “able to ride well an not mistakes.”
With the development of the new 1000cc machines is in its infancy so there are still areas of improvement for all teams. The scope for Ducati’s development that needs to be focused on according to Rossi was on power delivery and the electronics but encouragingly the Italian also said that the bike is now more agile an able to change direction better.
His teammate, Nicky Hayden, also had his first outing of the new GP12 but with the former world champion still struggling with a shoulder injury his running was limited. Even so the American still enjoyed his first outing of the year:
“It was great to try the new bike and get some information,” said the 2006 MotoGP champion. “We made a step forward with the feeling at the front while braking and turning, but I need to find more edge grip and rear grip on entry, and a better balance with the electronics.”
Hayden’s condition meant that he was limited to short stints on track and he will take a day-to-day approach with regards to deciding whether to ride for the rest of the test.