Valentino Rossi has conceded his chances of starting the new 1000cc MotoGP era with a rostrum in Qatar next month are remote after he ended pre-season testing in sixth place on the timesheets in Jerez.
The nine-times world champion clocked a best time of 1.39.733 but he was almost 0.6s behind Dani Pedrosa in third place and 0.953s adrift of reigning world champion Casey Stoner.
The new Ducati GP12 has not yet delivered Rossi the confident feeling he needs from the front-end and in Jerez he once again blamed an understeer issue for his failure to break into the top five.
Rossi wasn’t even in the top 10 until the latter stages of the Jerez test and for the majority of the final day he was well over a second off the best pace.
When the 33-yerar-old first rode the radical new GP12 in Sepang at the end of January, he was optimistic that a new engine position and conventional aluminium frame would put him in a position to fight for a podium from the first race.
But heading to Qatar for the season opener on April 8, Rossi told MCN: “For the podium for me will be difficult.
"Stoner and (Jorge) Lorenzo and Pedrosa are a lot faster than us and maybe one step down are (Ben) Spies and (Cal) Crutchlow, but they remain a little bit faster than us. It depends track by track what is our real potential."
The understeer though remains Rossi’s biggest speed limiter and he said: “It looks like this bike is better in the front and gives some information. But the bigger problem remains the understeer, so we have to try to work.
"It seems it is maybe something in the DNA of this bike. Our target is try to fix and maybe it is possible to do with the setting, but I don’t know.”
For more coverage of the Jerez test, see the March 28 issue of Motor Cycle News.