Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rossi: Ducati front-end 'not so far' from Honda

Seven time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi finished his first test on the all-new Ducati GP12 in fifth place and 1.2sec from the top at Sepang on Thursday. 

That meant the Italian slipped outside his goal of staying within one-second of the leading time, which he had achieved over the first two days.

But the figures were distorted somewhat by Honda's reigning double world champion Casey Stoner pulling 0.6sec clear of the field with a stunning 1min 59.607sec unofficial Sepang lap record on the final morning. 

“At the end the result is positive. We have a good base to work from,” said Rossi. “Fifth is nothing special, but we are closer - except to Stoner. The other guys are not so far. This is very good.” 

Rossi's lap time improved from 2min 2.392sec to 2min 0.824sec over the three days, which meant he kept pace with the rate of improvement by Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo, who finished the test in second place. 

“We were 0.7sec behind Lorenzo on the first day and on the last day we were also 0.7sec from Lorenzo. So when we modify the bike we improve. 

“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! 

“Last year was quite frustrating, because we worked a lot and didn't fix anything. Now we work for three days and we improved. It is a more normal and very positive.” 

The biggest obstacle Rossi faced during his debut Ducati season was a lack of front-end feel, which persisted despite several major technical revisions. 

Even bigger changes have been made for 2012 in the form of Ducati's first aluminium twin-spar frame, as used by the Japanese manufacturers. 

The full aluminium frame was first seen in public with Rossi at last November's Valencia test, but an 'all new' version of the GP12 was then built over the Christmas break. 

It is that 'new' - and currently carbon black - bike which Rossi and injured team-mate Nicky Hayden were riding for the first time at Sepang this week. Rossi did not ride the Valencia spec bike, on which the satellite spec GP12 is based. 

Given how much of an issue the Ducati front-end has been, asked Rossi to compare the feeling from the GP12 with that of the Yamaha and Honda machines on which he won a record 79 races in the premier-class from 2000-2010. 

“For me the turning of Yamaha is still better, because I think it is the best bike for that,” replied Rossi. “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,” he added. 

Unlike many other riders, especially the Hondas, Rossi said that he is not struggling with chatter. “Only a little bit. We are happy we don't have the front vibration.” 


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