Andrea Dovizioso believes there won’t be any big improvement in Ducati’s fortunes in the early part of the 2014 MotoGP campaign, despite a positive pre-season campaign in Malaysia and Australia.
Improvements to braking stability and corner entry on the GP14 Desmosedici has seen the Italian impress in winter testing, with the highlight a brilliant third place finish in last week’s second Sepang showdown.
Dovizioso was also pleasantly surprised with the performance of the GP14 during this week’s Phillip Island tyre test in Australia.
But heading to the season opener under the Losail International Circuit floodlights in Qatar later this month, Dovizioso has cast doubt on his prospects of challenging for top positions.
The ex-125GP world champion had a nightmare debut season with Ducati in 2013 and in 18 races he only scored two top six finishes.
The GP14 has been improved under the early guidance of new technical guru Gigi Dall’Igna, but Dovizioso said Ducati still needed to make big improvements to the bike before it can contemplate challenging Honda and Yamaha.
Ducati recently announced it would race in the new Open class in 2014, with no engine freeze giving Dall’Igna and his technical staff crucial freedom to develop the GP14.
And Dovizioso said his main target for 2014 would be to improve the Desmosedici, which was a mission that completely eluded Ducati last season.
Dovizioso said: “The reality here (Phillip Island) is the same in Malaysia and that is we have improved my feeling with the bike. I am able to brake hard and enter the corner faster. But until we improve the turning it is going to be difficult for us to stay at the front. The competitors don’t have a big problem with the bike and the riders are very strong. To compete with them you need a really good bike and it is difficult. But we go to Qatar more competitive and we can start better because the gap is smaller than last year."
"But last year the gap was too big and my expectations are not unbelievably high for this moment. I know the reality of the bike and it has improved but not everything has changed. I am really happy how we improved but we still need a big step. The target of this year is the same as last year when I didn’t get it and that is to improve the bike. We have improved the bike a bit but it is not enough and we have to improve a lot and this is the target. Last year we were 1.5s slower and with a gap like that you are able to do nothing."
"When you start to reduce the gap you can start to think about position or strategy. To speak about position is too early and no point because we only started working with Gigi two months ago and we need time. We have been able to improve because we work together in a logical way. I am optimistic for the future but not so much for now.”