Valentino Rossi looks ahead to crucial Sepang test

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Valentino Rossi quickly turned his attention to a crucial first test of 2012 at the Sepang track in Malaysia next January after he finished over 1.5s away from the fastest pace during a two-day test in Valencia.

The 32-year-old experimented with a new twin spar aluminium frame for the first time in Valencia this week in a bid to eradicate the vague front-end feeling and understeer issue that severely hampered Rossi during his first season at Ducati.

He ended the year without a win for the first time in his career and scored just one podium in Le Mans, but as preparations for 2012 kicked off, he was still well off the pace of Honda duo Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner.

Rossi ended the Valencia test with a best lap of 1.33.332 to finish sixth overall. But he was a massive 1.525s slower than Spaniard Pedrosa, who topped the timesheets with a 1.31.807 on Honda’s new RC213V machine.

A corner entry issue remains according to Rossi, despite the introduction of a conventional frame and the nine-times world champion said: “With this bike you can push a bit more on the front and this is the feeling that I had with the first touch on the 1000cc in Jerez.

"For some reason you can push more and together with the better engine delivery it is a better bike but for me our problem is not from the chassis.

"The problem is not the material or if the engine is an important part of the chassis. It is something else like weight distribution because between aluminium and carbon there is not a lot of difference.”

Rossi said the acid test of Ducati’s development will come in Sepang on January 31 when he is expected to test another heavily modified GP12.

The Valencia test was primarily a data gathering exercise and he added: “We have to work to fix some problems, especially with the entry where I am not fast enough and that is the bigger problem for us. I lose corner speed and the lap time. If we are able to fix that problem then we can make a good step.

"The Honda is unbelievable but we have to be closer. Now is the crucial moment between now and February. We have some different things to put together for the tests in February and they will be crucial.

"If you are one second or more off in February then after it is very difficult to recover during the season. We need to make the step now.”

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt