Remember Rossi's Ducati Debut?

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After watching his 15th place Ducati MotoGP debut in 2010, MCN’s Matthew Birt warned us it would be foolish to write off Valentino Rossi…

alentino Rossi’s legendary crew chief Jerry Burgess has warned it would be foolhardy to write off the Italian star following a shock slump on his factory Ducati debut in Valencia.

With fans fixated on his much-hyped first outing on a Ducati, Rossi could only finish 15th on the overall timesheets – a result that sent shockwaves down the pitlane and around the globe.

‘Bad result, positive test’ was how Ducati was spinning up Rossi’s GP11 debut after he was left languishing over 1.7s away from former factory Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo’s quickest time. The nine-times world champion was also less than a tenth of a second faster than MotoGP novice Karel Abrabam on another Ducati.

But Burgess, who was influential in helping Rossi transform Yamaha’s fortunes when he quit Honda at the end of 2003, warned about the dangers of dismissing the 31-year-old as a major threat next year.

“It’s a big job, there’s no doubt about that, but I am confident we will be on the money. Anybody who bets against us will want to have plenty of money in their pocket,” said a defiant Burgess, who tried to deflect attention away from Rossi’s lowly position on the timesheets to accentuate the positives of the two-day session.

With Rossi gagged from speaking about his Ducati debut by the terms of his existing contract with Yamaha, Burgess offered some vital insight into the Valencia test.

Rossi was instantly enamoured with the amount of rear grip offered by the new 2011 big bang motor. He also assessed a new screamer GP11, but only completed a handful of laps on the more powerful but less user-friendly motor. Burgess said: “It has got fantastic rear grip and the engine is terrific.”

Priority number one is to solve a turning issue with the front end and Burgess added: “It was probably a little bit more physical to ride than the Japanese bikes are. The way you have to force it a little bit more than perhaps you would like probably puts some stress on the front that we didn’t expect to be there.  But we didn’t push into any areas where there was any sort of risk. We wanted to get laps on the bike, get some data and feedback, make a lot of changes and have Valentino understand the bike, even though we are not quite on the pace.”

Burgess said it would be foolish to read too much into Rossi’s lowly position. By the end of the Valencia test he’d ridden for five out of six days and his troublesome right shoulder injury was a clear handicap as he struggled to do runs of more than four laps in succession as chronic fatigue set in.

But there is no doubt that even Burgess had been surprised by Rossi’s standing on the final timesheets.

“It’s certainly unusual to see Valentino that far down,” he acknowledged. “We expected to be a little bit better but we got enough information and our focus is to make a bike that is easy for everyone to get along with. And Valentino is the man for that. 

“The result of this test is not irrelevant but it is not the most important thing. Getting Valentino familiarised with the bike was a big part of what we had to do. Obviously, if you could be the fastest man here that’s great for instant headlines, but we were here to work and be ready for Qatar next year. We would have loved to have been further up the road, everybody loves to be on top of the timesheets, but we’ve got a heap of information to work with and that’s what we will be doing.”

Burgess also said that Rossi had found his first experience of Ducati a major culture shock having spent his entire four-stroke MotoGP career riding Japanese machinery.

He added: “It’s a different tool for doing the same job.  There are some things that you have to adapt that you normally don’t have to do. We’ve seen what Casey Stoner can do on the bike, there’s nothing there that really scares us. It is just a case of getting more understanding and more testing.

“I think it is good to know that you can bring a guy like VR to this sort of test and then be able to rely on him in the weeks later to tap into his mind and get on with it.”

Words Matthew Birt  Photos Gold and Goose, Neil Spalding

MCN Sport

By MCN Sport

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