Assen MotoGP: Valentino Rossi curious to ride radical new Ducati

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Valentino Rossi said he’s curious to gauge the performance of a radical new Ducati MotoGP bike in Assen tomorrow.

Ducati and Rossi have pinned hopes on the new GP11.1 turning round their fortunes after a tough start to 2011 saw the nine-times world champion claim just one podium in the opening six races.

The GP11.1 is effectively a hybrid of the GP11 he’s struggled on so far and the chassis and rear section of the GP12, which was being developed for the new 1000cc MotoGP class in 2012.

Rossi’s current GP11 engine has been modified to fit the GP12 frame and rear section, which features a new inverted swingarm and subframe.

The 32-year-old said the decision to run the new bike was only made last Thursday after he’d completed his third test on the GP12 at the Mugello track.

It was then Ducati technical boss Filippo Preziosi offered Rossi the opportunity to race the GP11.1.

Rossi said: “More than confident I’m very excited and very curious about the GP11.1. I feel always confident and with a better feeling with the GP12 with the 1000 engine, so the big question mark now is to understand how much is the engine and how much is the chassis. The decision was taken last Thursday after the test in Mugello. I pushed a lot to Filippo to have some new stuff as soon as possible, especially for Mugello.

“The result at the beginning of the year is worst than what we expected and I always have big difficulties to go fast with the GP11. I pushed a lot to fix some problems on the GP11 but Filippo understands that the answer is the GP12. Fortunately the bike we have already in the factory is different in all the areas we suffer the most. From the first test in Jerez I have a lot more feeling with the GP12.

“We don’t have a real understanding of our level because we are always alone. We base this decision more on my feeling because I feel more confident with this bike and what I do to go fast, I can do with the GP12 and I go faster. For this reason Filippo came to me after the test and said ‘maybe it is a risk but if you want we can put the 800 engine in the GP12.’ I said I would be very happy and it was a surprise also for me. It is a risk because maybe this bike is not good with an 800cc engine. But when you need to recover you need to take risks.”

Asked by MCN in which areas he hoped the GP11.1 would be an improvement, he said: “The rear of the GP12 is a lot more stable and it puts a different pressure on the front so I have a better feeling with the front. I have less movement in acceleration and I can create more grip compared to the old bike.”

The GP11.1 also features a new seamless shift gearbox, but Rossi denied that development was in direct response to the system introduced by Honda for 2011.

He added: “After the first test in Valencia I spoke with Filippo, even before I knew Honda had a new gearbox. I felt the gearbox of the GP11 was also slower than the gearbox of the Yamaha YZR-M1, so I said we need something new with the gearbox as soon as possible because the feeling is worse compared to the Yamaha. I tried the gearbox in Mugello last week and on the 1000 the feeling is very good.”

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt