Assen MotoGP: Rain fails to dampen Valentino Rossi’s spirits

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Rain and a cancelled practice session failed to dampen Valentino Rossi’s spirits after he made an encouraging debut on Ducati’s new GP11.1 bike in Assen today.

Riding the radical new bike for the first time, Rossi was second fastest in the rain this morning, the 32-year-old clocking a best time of 1.49.296 to finish 0.360s behind compatriot Marco Simoncelli.

The Ducati GP11.1 features a completely new rear section and was initially built for Ducati's prototype GP12 designed for the new 1000cc regulations in 2012.

But a poor run of results in his Ducati debut year convinced Bologna bosses to take drastic action, with the new bike only offered to the nine-times world champion for Assen last Thursday.

Featuring a new swingarm and rear suspension, Rossi was thrilled with the improvements, despite only having chance to evaluate the updates in the rain this morning.

And hopes to further gauge the performance of the new bike were dashed when this afternoon’s second session was cancelled on safety grounds after two separate oil spillages in the earlier Moto2 practice.

Rossi, who has scored only one podium in the opening six races for Ducati, said: "Unfortunately we only had time this morning and it was a short time to understand the new bike, but the first feeling is that it is very positive, especially because it is the same feeling I had with the 1000.

"Changing the engine to the 800 in these conditions doesn’t give new problems to the bike and I’m so happy because the old bike was fast in the wet and I was competitive apart from Silverstone. But with this bike it looks better in these conditions. Now we have to wait for the dry to understand our level but the bike is good to ride and I enjoyed a lot this morning. I feel more confident and I feel more enjoyment to ride."

Explaining the improved feeling from the GP12 parts, Rossi said: "The biggest difference is the rear part of the bike and with this modification in the rear the bike is more stable under acceleration and I have more grip in the corners. It also helps load the front better, so it has two or three positive things that are very important."

He also ran Ducati’s new seamless shift gearbox for the first time today and he added: "I am very happy and it is the first time we try in the wet and I have a good feeling from the beginning and no problem to ride the bike and the gearbox helps the acceleration. Everybody was very worried about this gearbox but from the first time in Mugello it was ok in the dry and this morning in the wet it was no problem. The main advantage is the acceleration."

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt