The Italian struggled last year in his debut season aboard the Ducati but inMalaysiahe steadily improved throughout the sessions and gained a good understanding of his new bike. 32 year old finished the day fifth fastest over one second behind pacesetter Casey Stoner but 0.7s behind the rest of the Yamaha and Honda riders.
“At the end the result is positive,” commented Rossi. “We have a good base to work from. Fifth is nothing special, but we are closer. This is very good. I’m happy, especially because we still have two or three problems to fix. Now we have to see if and when we can fix them. I hope as soon as possible!
For the first time since joining theBolognasquad one of those issues is no longer the front end. Ducati has been plagued by front end problems in recent years with both Stoner and Rossi crashing regularly as they push the bike to its limits.
The all-new for 2012 carbon fibre frame has played a part in alleviating this issue and in Malaysia Rossi was clearly much more satisfied:
“The most positive things we’ve achieved are that the front now lets me ride a little more as I’m able,” said Rossi. “The bike reacts well to changes and that we have very clear ideas on what’s still missing. In particular, if we manage to improve the bike’s behaviour on acceleration, we’ll be able to take a consistent step forward.”
It was interesting in Sepang that while many riders complained about having huge chatter problems with the front of their bikes the previously susceptible Ducati had no sues woes. When asked if the Ducati suffered from chatter Rossi simply said, “Only a little bit. We are happy we don’t have the front vibration.”
Interestingly for the first time since joining Ducati Rossi now has confidence to compare his current mount with those he has raced in the past. When Rossi was asked about where his new machine ranks in regards to his Honda and Yamaha bike Rossi said:
“For me the turning of Yamaha is still better, because I think it is the best bike for that,” commented the nine times world champion. “Compared to the Hondas – it was a long time ago – but I think we are not so far. From what I remember since 2003! Our engine is not so bad. It is quite fast. But we still struggle in acceleration unfortunately so we have to fix this”.
Most years riders and teams enthuse confidence during winter testing but given the struggles of last year there is little for Rossi to gain by being positive about his bike unless there is actually potential in the machine for a return to prominence in 2012.