Weather ruins Rossi's Yamaha return

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Cold temperatures and intermittent rain put a huge dampener on the opening day of winter testing in Valencia today, with Valentino Rossi completing just two tentative laps on his Yamaha return in dry conditions.

The Ricardo Tormo track had only been open for 10 minutes when a rain shower halted proceedings, with Rossi almost caught out on slicks when he had two big moments before pulling into the pits.

Only Alvaro Bautista, Stefan Bradl, Andrea Dovizioso, Hiroshi Aoyama, Karel Abraham and Rossi completed laps on slick tyres and the rest of the day was played out under heavy cloud cover on a wet track.

The main focus of today was undoubtedly Rossi’s long-awaited return to Yamaha to renew his rivalry with Spaniard and reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo.

Eager to get in crucial early miles on the Yamaha, Rossi took to the track on a 2012-spec YZR-M1 just before the rain came when he managed a 1.44.158.

Rossi had hoped to familiarise himself with Yamaha again on this year’s model before jumping on a 2013 prototype model.

Rossi never got to try the new bike and his best time in the rain of 1.43.736 was the second quickest on a damp track behind former factory Ducati teammate Nicky Hayden. The American was fastest in the wet with a 1.42.571.

Lorenzo didn’t even bother completing a single lap and desperate to get some early impressions of next year’s YZR-M1, which features an updated chassis and engine compared to an early prototype tested in Brno back in late August, Yamaha plans to test at the Motorland Aragon track tomorrow.

Rossi completed 28 laps in total but he was unable to make any comment having been gagged from talking about Yamaha until 2013.

Ducati and Yamaha have agreed that he is only free to speak publicly when his contract Ducati contract expires next month. The same arrangement was in place when he embarked on a disastrous two-year spell with Ducati at the end of 2010.

Andrea Dovizioso took over from Rossi at Ducati and he completed 41 laps, but only three in the dry.

Lorenzo wasn’t the only one to sit in the pits waiting for a break in the weather that never materialised.

Repsol Honda duo Dani Pedrosa and rookie Marc Marquez didn’t turn a wheel. Forecasts are for even worse conditions tomorrow and HRC have said it is unlikely the Spanish duo will ride as they have a three-day test scheduled for Sepang in Malaysia later this month.

Cal Crutchlow didn’t go out and neither did frustrated teammate Bradley Smith, who was gutted after months of anticipation ahead of his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 debut.

Triple British Superbike champion Shane Byrne was also a non-starter. He was due to test Paul Bird’s Aprilia ART machine ahead of a decision on whether he will switch to MotoGP in 2013 or stay in BSB and bid for a fourth crown.

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt