After struggling to make meaningful progress throughout the second Sepang test, then opening two days at Jerez, Valentino Rossi concluded his 2012 MotoGP pre-season preparations on a positive note on Sunday.
The seven time MotoGP champion, who claimed a solitary podium during his debut Ducati season, had spoken enthusiastically of the new aluminium-frame GP12 during its Sepang I debut.
But the Italian was left 'worried' when his progress stalled during the second Malaysian test and the infamous front-end cornering problems then continued in Spain.
Speaking on Sunday evening, Rossi explained that pursuit of a 'bad set-up' had led them astray.
“Today went much better than Friday, and I'm pleased... we're pleased,” he began. “Unfortunately, we made some mistakes at Sepang II chasing a bad setup, and we paid for that a bit on Friday because we started from that base.”
Ninth and 1.8sec off the pace on Friday, Rossi was then robbed of value track time by poor weather on day two, but the set-up changes allowed him to cut the gap to Honda's Casey Stoner to 0.953sec and claim sixth place on the final day.
“Saturday's rain cost us an entire day, but today we finally worked well all day long,” he said. “Step by step, we arrived at our current potential: I'm sixth, and I did a 1m 39.7s, which is a good time considering that we've only really ridden this bike for six or seven days.
“We changed the setup, first the rear and then the front, and now I enter the corners pretty well again. I'm able to lean and I can 'risk' a bit more. Although we know very well that we still have a long road ahead, if we look at the gap to the front we can say we're ready for the first race.”
Rossi will go into the new season having finished each of the pre-season tests 1.217sec (fifth), 1.077sec (tenth) and now 0.953sec (sixth) from the top.
During 2011 pre-season testing Rossi had been 1.085s (tenth), 1.804s (eleventh) and Rossi 1.307s (thirteenth) behind.
Team-mate Nicky Hayden, the fastest Ducati rider on the opening two days at Jerez - and quickest of all in the rain interrupted Saturday session - finished the test in eighth place, 1.1sec from former team-mate Stoner.