Australia MotoGP: Valentino Rossi struggles in lowly 13th

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Valentino Rossi never expected to continue Ducati’s phenomenal winning record at the Phillip Island circuit after a nightmare 2011 campaign.

But the Italian certainly didn’t expect to be as far off the pace as he was at the end of the opening day of practice in Australia today.

The factory Ducati rider finished in a lowly 13th place, with a best time of 1.32.014 leaving him 1.539s adrift of Repsol Honda rider and home crowd favourite Casey Stoner.

A Desmosedici machine that suffered chronic front and rear grip issues and the pain from the broken left little finger he suffered in a first lap crash in Japan earlier this month meant Rossi couldn’t even fight his way inside the top 10.

And he said: "It is a bad day because we expected to go a bit better like in Motegi. But we have a lot of problems and it is very difficult for me to ride. Firstly the finger because I have a lot of pain and this morning I tried to ride without nothing but I had a lot of problems. This afternoon the Clinica Mobile put in some painkillers but there was no difference at all and I still had a lot of pain. For this problem tomorrow we will try something stronger and we will see if it is enough.

"Then I don't have the feeling with the bike, so I can’t ride like I want and the front is very bad for me and I don't have enough feeling to enter fast in the corner with good speed. I am very slow on braking and entry and also in the centre of the corner I never reach enough angle. So the situation is quite bad.  Also in acceleration I spin too much but especially I lose time in the entry.

"For tomorrow we will try to do something different and achieve something better than 13th. It is a difficult season but here we expected to make something better and stay with the second group, but we are very far away.”

What was baffling for Rossi is that he struggled to explain why he was so slow. He has scored just one podium in 15 races for Ducati but he hoped to be more competitive in Philip Island on a track where Ducati has won every race in the 800cc era.

He added: "There is no explanation because we don't know. The bike was exactly the same as in Motegi. It is the same spec; the same setting and we just made a small modification in the spring. It is very, very difficult for me to ride and I could never ride like I want."

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt