Valentino Rossi will kick off Ducati’s bid for glory in the new 1000cc MotoGP world championship in 2012 today, the Italian making his test debut on the GP12 prototype machine at the Jerez circuit in Spain.
The 32-year-old will give Ducati his first impressions of the new bike after a successful shakedown was carried out by test and development duo Vittoriano Guareschi and Franco Battaini yesterday (Thursday).
MCN revealed last weekend that the new GP12 would be tested in Jerez, but the appearance of Rossi today and American Hayden tomorrow (Saturday) was kept a closely guarded secret.
With Rossi and Hayden evaluating the new bike so early, it is clear Ducati is desperate to get early feedback to ensure the GP12 is competitive when the 1000cc class kicks off in 2012.
Ducati’s current GP11 is struggling to mount a challenge at the front in MotoGP and the bike is undergoing a major revamp in readiness for a one-day test after the next race in Estoril, Portugal, early next month.
Changes will include a major revision to the engine to make the power delivery smoother and a new chassis has been developed with more flex to help eradicate a big understeer issue that his hindered Rossi and Hayden so far tbis year.
Rossi was fighting for the victory in a wet Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez last weekend when he crashed out and took out fierce rival Casey Stoner with him.
Rossi remounted to finish fifth but he said his strong rain performance didn’t disguise the fact that Ducati needs to improve drastically to be a challenger in dry conditions.
The last time MotoGP underwent a major revamp of the rules when the 800s replaced the 990cc four-strokes in 2007, Ducati was dominant and Aussie Stoner won ten races.