Honda progress exposed Ducati weakness, says Valentino Rossi

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Valentino Rossi reckons the performance improvements made by Honda in 2011 worsened the extent of the problems experienced by Ducati this season.

Rossi has struggled to make any significant progress with Ducati’s GP11 machine and in a bid to improve his results, the Bologna factory rolled out a brand new bike called the GP11.1 for last weekend’s Assen round in Holland.

The bike was effectively the chassis and rear suspension of next year’s 1000cc GP12 Desmosedici with an engine destroked to 800cc to comply with existing regulations.

Rossi finished fourth on the GP11.1 in Assen but was still 30 seconds adrift of first time winner Ben Spies and the 32-year-old said: “The bigger problem this year is the Honda, which made a great step and a big improvement that didn’t happen last year. I think that the GP11 in the last season doesn’t develop in the right way and starting from 2007 the Ducati won less races year by year.

“This bike is very difficult to ride and Stoner rode this bike in a very good way, also because he was five years with the same bike. For all the riders that come from a more normal bike, it is quite difficult and I think mainly that bike has arrived at the end of its development. With this one (GP11.1) we have more space to improve the bike.”

Rossi is hoping he will be closer to the front this weekend when he races on home soil for the first time on a Ducati at Mugello.

It was over a year ago since he broke his right leg in a high-speed crash at Mugello when he was riding for Yamaha, but Rossi believes he can be more competitive than in recent races.

He has tested the GP12 twice in Mugello recently so at least has been abke to evaluate the chassis performance of the GP11.1 ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.

He added: “Looking to the Mugello race we can see it in a more optimistic way and we tested this bike two times in Mugello with the 1000 engine and we did some good lap times. We expect high temperatures and we hope to be more competitive because we need to improve the result.”

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt