The front-end problems that turned Valentino Rossi’s debut season with Ducati into a disaster show no sign of improving after the Italian finished the opening day of testing in Jerez in a lowly ninth place.
The 33-year-old ended with a best time of 1.40.920 that was a massive 1.774s away from the best pace set by reigning world champion Casey Stoner.
The nine-times world champion was less than a tenth quicker than rookie Stefan Bradl and Aprilia CRT rider Randy de Puniet and over 0.4s behind team-mate Nicky Hayden.
A radical overhaul of the factory GP12 machine appears to have done little to cure the persistent front-end problems that hampered Rossi so severely in 2011.
A revised engine position and revamped twin spar aluminium frame have not given him the full confidence in the front-end he needs to push at 100% and he said:
“The problem is always I have too much difficulty to load the front, especially on the entry of the corner. I am not able to carry enough speed into the corner, especially when I have to enter without the brakes. So it is in the fast corners where I lose more.
"We improve a lot but unfortunately we can’t improve this feeling. At the end we try a different setting and the feeling with the bike improve and I did quite a good lap time for my pace but it was already 530pm and it was quite cold.”
Asked by MCN whether he had finally found the optimum riding position on this year’s Desmosedici, he said he still felt he was sitting too far over the rear.
Ducati has experimented with numerous riding positions for months in a bid to help with weight distribution for corner entry and acceleration.
But Rossi told MCN: “My feeling remains that I am too much on the rear and too far away from the front, but now what we have is this, so I think the riding position will remain like this.”
Could the problem be fixed with a different set-up or does Rossi believe he needs new parts to find a solution?
He added: “The worry for us is we change a lot of the bike, also from last year, and the character of the bike and the problem always remain very similar. I think this bike is safer, so you can try something, because with the other bike it was more dangerous.
"But the problem for the lap time remains, so I don't know if we are able to fix. We understand clearly the problem where we have to work, so now we have to hope they can fix it.”