Valentino Rossi had arguably his best day on board the new factory Ducati GP11 machine today when he finished the opening day of practice in Jerez with the third fastest time.
The 32-year-old set a best time of 1.40.077 in this morning’s opening session to end the first day of the Spanish Grand Prix just over half-a-second behind Repsol Honda rival Casey Stoner.
He was third in cool conditions this morning and fifth in the afternoon session and the nine-times world champion said he was much happier with the performance of the GP11 than he was when he struggled to a lowly seventh in the season’s opening race in Qatar last month.
Rossi said: “Third and fifth today is a good step compared to Qatar, but also in Qatar we started quite well and weren’t able to improve enough. I like this track and I prefer the Ducati in Jerez compared to Qatar, so I’m happy.
"The two Hondas are quite far but from Lorenzo we are not so far and we are very close to Simoncelli, so we can fight for better positions.
"The shoulder, unfortunately the power is not enough but it looks like the resistance improves, so this is very important for Sunday. It looks like I lose less power lap by lap.”
The improvement compared to Qatar was Rossi had more grip and his bike was easier to manage in the change of direction and braking zone.
But the top seven were all unable to improve their lap times in hotter and windier conditions in this afternoon’s second session and Rossi explained why to MCN.
“The wind for sure was a reason but also the track temperature. Jerez is always famous for being a fast track with a bit less degrees. We suffer a bit more compared to the other guys because we lose 0.9s, while the others lose five or six tenths,“ added Rossi.
Tweaks to the electronics of Rossi’s GP11 had also helped, though today’s result won’t stop Ducati working frantically to prep a heavily revamped Desmosedici for Rossi to assess in a one-day test immediately after the Estoril round in Portugal.
He said: “We made improvements in some systems. We have started to work with the electronics – I gave some advice what I like from the bike when I open the throttle, because the first system was a bit rude. For the software we have made some improvement but the hardware is exactly the same.”