Valentino Rossi might be edging closer to the front in the 2011 MotoGP world championship, but further improvements are still needed to make the factory Ducati GP11 a more competitive force.
Rossi has finished fifth in the three out of the last four races but the distance between himself and the winning time has been coming down significantly as the Ducati GP11 has marginally improved.
Rossi’s legendary crew chief Jerry Burgess says improvements are still required though to give Rossi any hope of getting in the fight at the front with Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner and reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo.
A new more flexible carbon fibre chassis package should be ready in time for Rossi to evaluate at the forthcoming Assen round in Holland later this month and Burgess told MCN: "Qatar we were 16 seconds off the lead, Portugal 16, Le Mans 14 and now in Catalunya seven, so the position hasn’t changed much but we are getting closer to the leader. We need more of what we’ve already improved.
"We’ve got to keep making steps but we’re coming from a long way back and we’re trying to develop a bike that can be ridden fast and safely for the entire season and not just two or three races in a year. We’ve got the right man on the job and I expect another step for Assen. It may not show dividends in Assen and it may only be small step, but it is something we can try and improve what we’ve got."
Now that Rossi’s right shoulder is almost fully recovered, Burgess said he might try old settings used in the winter now that the 32-year-old is capable of giving more accurate feedback.
Rossi was still way below full fitness when he started testing the GP11 in Sepang back in early February and Burgess believes some of his comments and information were heavily influenced by his physical state.
Burgess added: "There are a number of settings I’d like to go through with him again that we ran earlier and I think it would be beneficial. I think we can make big steps quite easy but we have been there and it is a big change to the bike. When we did it before he wasn’t at his best and perhaps a lot of the stuff we changed we didn’t get the correct answer from him in the sense he wasn’t fit enough to ride the bike or understand how it was."
Burgess also felt Rossi would have been more competitive in the Catalunya race last weekend as he spent the whole clash chasing Andrea Dovizioso for fourth spot.
The Aussie said: "I thought we would hit our straps in Catalunya a bit more than we did. We were only seven seconds behind but I felt that type of track would favour him. I felt we’d be there and again we weren’t that far away. In the section times, the last section where he had his biggest problem, the only two people faster were Lorenzo and Casey."