Qatar test: Valentino Rossi still optimistic for first race

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Reigning MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi refused to be too downcast after being comprehensively beaten by chief rival Casey Stoner at the Qatar night test.

The Italian’s best time of 1.56.972 on his 30th of 75 laps on the final night at the Losail International Circuit wasn’t good enough to get within a second of Stoner’s impressive Ducati pace.

Rossi was a massive 1.228s adrift of the Aussie, who has emerged as Rossi’s most serious challenger since his move to Ducati in 2007.

Also giving the 30-year-old food for thought ahead of the season’s opening race in Qatar on April 12 was the fact that Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo relegated him to third in the final standings.

A lap of 1.56.733 at the end of an eye-catching full 22-lap race simulation by the Spaniard was 0.239s faster than Rossi, who struggled to find a setting to cope with the sudden drop in air and track temperature as the night wore on.

His struggles were so severe that he opted to abort a planned race distance run.

The eight-time world champion though took solace in the fact that temperatures are expected to rise significantly by the time of the race next month and he told MCN: “I would have liked to have gone a little bit faster and certainly been closer to Casey, but I didn’t have the pace when the track got much colder.

“I was quite fast in the beginning but then I had some problems. Third is not so bad and I am not far behind Lorenzo, but Casey is very fast.

“This is not a surprise though when you look at his record in Qatar. He has always been fast at this track.

“I know it will be hotter when we return for the race so I am still confident that I can fight for the podium, and certainly be better than the fifth of last year.”

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt