Valentino Rossi is confident Ducati’s factory MotoGP machine will continue to get faster and easier to ride after he enjoyed a successful test on a heavily-revamped GP11 in Estoril yesterday.
The Italian got his first chance to evaluate a new carbon fibre chassis in Portugal yesterday as Ducati seeks to cure a long-standing vague feeling from the front-end, as well as helping iron out a persistent understeer issue.
The nine-times world champion also tested a new engine which featured a heavier crankshaft, as was revealed by MCN immediately after the first round of the season in Qatar back in March.
Rossi was fifth quickest at the end of the Estoril test with a best time of 1.37.410. That was still a fraction over a second slower than Marco Simoncelli’s best lap of 1.36.211 but Rossi was still happy that the new updated GP11 was a step in the right direction.
Rossi confirmed he will use the new frame immediately from the next race in Le Mans later this month.
"We tried a different front part in the bike and it is better and my feeling with the bike improves a lot and I can make a better lap time. I have a lot more indication in my hand of what is happening with the front tyre and this is the most positive thing. Now I understand more what is going on with the front and this is very important."
"I will definitely use the new chassis at the next race in Le Mans. Unfortunately the distance to the top is still too big but when I tried the right tyres to go quicker, I was already quite tired with the shoulder. I’m not at the same level as Simoncelli but I think we are closer than the timesheets say. But I’m sure I could have gone a bit faster," said Rossi.
"It has been a positive test and now we can do some more work to improve even more. The new engine was not a big difference but the character was smoother in acceleration and we will now wait to see when we can use this engine in the next two or three races."
Rossi was also thrilled with new Bridgestone tyres that were made available at the test. The tyres are being developed for the new 1000cc class in 2012 and one front and two rears were rolled out by Bridgestone.
The field universally praised the rear tyres, but it seems unlikely that Bridgestone will make the tyres available during the 2011 campaign.
Rossi was a big fan and he said: “The new tyres are beautiful and all the riders are happy. They are faster with a better feeling and better edge grip, so I am happy that Bridgestone continues to work. But I would be happy if we could use these tyres during this season, but I don’t know if it is possible."
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Colin Edwards, renowned for his tyre testing skills, was also impressed and he said: "I really like the direction Bridgestone is going in for 2012. I felt comfortable immediately and they’ve done some phenomenal work. Right from the first lap you get a lot of understanding and feel. The lap time was pretty similar with both and I’d love to have them this year."