Valentino Rossi aims for big progress in Sepang

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The start of Valentino Rossi’s second test on board Ducati’s heavily revamped GP12 MotoGP machine proved to be a frustrating affair for the Italian after he finished in a lowly eighth on the opening day leaderboard in Sepang.

The 33-year-old was hoping to build on an encouraging GP12 debut in Sepang earlier this month when he finished fifth quickest.

But the nine-times world champion could only log a best time of 2.03.245 to finish 1.484s adrift of Honda rival Casey Stoner, who continued his domination of winter testing to claim top spot.

Rossi said: “It was a bad day, especially because we didn’t have enough time to work. We are also a bit unlucky because this morning I was on track very early but the condition of the track was very slippery and dirty and when the conditions started to come better I’d already done more than 20-laps on the soft rear tyre and I was sliding everywhere.

“But we decided to wait for the afternoon to use the other good tyre but unfortunately the rain came, so it was not a very important day apart from the work in the wet.

“This was the first time we tried the new bike in the wet conditions and I think it is not so bad. On the wet it was good but in the dry we don’t understand nothing. Even at the end the track had some wet patches so we decided to save one tyre for tomorrow and we hope to have more time to understand.

“I was able to do around 15-laps in the wet and to understand better the bike and the feeling is not so bad and also the lap time is quite good, so we confirm the good feeling of the old Ducati in the wet conditions. But to understand if we are in a good way we have to wait until tomorrow.”

Rossi told MCN the heavy downpour that fell at 2pn prevented him from testing new traction control settings with the latest spec Desmosedici, which now features a conventional aluminium frame.

He had only used a modification to the previous settings and he told MCN: “I didn’t try it today because we had some modification to the old traction control, especially for when I change gear and anti-wheelie.

“We wanted to use the new traction control this afternoon with the fresh tyre but unfortunately it rained. I just tried it in the wet and the first impression is not so bad.”

With almost 1.5s between Rossi’s pace and Stoner’s, it is clear that Ducati’s revival still has some way to go before Rossi can think about threatening the Australian’s domination.

The solution could be a raft of new parts for next month’s official test in Jerez and Rossi added: “We have to improve now but Ducati is working hard and we will have some new parts maybe at the Jerez test or after the first races.”

Rossi was riding in Sepang today for the first time since he had the metalwork removed from his right leg that was inserted after he suffered a serious leg break in a crash for his home race at Mugello in 2010.

He added: “It is not so bad. On the bike I am quite fit but I have some pain in the knee because I have a big cut in the centre. I am happy because it was a big surgery because they said it would take 30 minutes and it took two hours.

“It was difficult to take out the pin from the bone but my body is in good condition because the cut is good in just two weeks, I knew the pin was long but it was 32cm and it is green and I didn’t know that.

“There was a big fight to have it but now it is in my house like a good memory. I had one pin and four screws. To have them out of my body I am happy and it is a good step.”

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt