Valentino Rossi will start his first race for Ducati on Italian soil from a lowly 12th position tomorrow after another disastrous qualifying session at his beloved Mugello circuit.
The 32-year-old could only clock a best time of 1.49.902 in a rain-affected qualifying session to finish a massive 1.868s behind Casey Stoner’s Repsol Honda RC212V.
Rossi was only eighth quickest overall in the two dry practice sessions and he told MCN it has been difficult to accept that for the first time in his MotoGP career he will start his home race with no chance of victory.
"It is difficult but the greater pity is for the fans around the track who come to support me. That is quite a bad feeling. I’m very sorry for this, but we have a lot of problems and we are in this situation also in the other tracks and we have to try to improve everywhere," said Rossi, who appeared in upbeat mood when speaking in the Ducati hospitality unit tonight.
Riding the radical new GP11.1 Desmosedici for just the second weekend, Rossi was clearly expecting to be much more competitive with the updated bike.
Featuring the chassis and rear suspension initially designed for next year’s 1000cc GP12 machine, Rossi had successfully tested the new parts in Mugello recently.
But then he was using the 1000cc motor and fitting this year’s 800cc engine into the new frame hasn’t rid the Ducati of its long-running front-end issue, which Rossi has complained about since he first tested for Ducati in Valencia last November.
The nine-times world champion, who won seven straight home races in Mugello between 2002 and ’08, said: "For sure the weather conditions don’t help us to work on the new bike and I think that with the normal qualifying we can be a bit higher like in seventh or eighth place. But anyway it is not enough. I always have the same problem in the front. I don’t feel very much the front tyre, so I’m slow to enter in the corner and this is the place where I lose a lot of time.
"We hope that in Mugello we can stay more close to the top, but in the end, the gap is so big. It is the same as the other tracks and so it will be hard. The big question mark that we have to try to understand is with the 1000 at this track I was faster, but not just on the straight with more power, but also in a lot of corners. We don’t understand, because it is the same bike. So we have to try to discover."