Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden got their first taste of the new Ducati Desmosedici GP12 race bikes at the official MotoGP test at Malaysia’s Sepang circuit.
It’s only the first day of the pre-season test, and Ducati spent much of its time trying to establish a base setup for the rest of the three-day test. Rossi logged 43 laps and his best time was 2:02.392, fifth fastest of the test and 0.735 seconds behind leader Jorge Lorenzo of Yamaha. Hayden is still recovering from an injured shoulder but managed to put in 33 laps, with his time of 2:03.151 good enough for tenth fastest of the first day.
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For Ducati, the test marked a remarkably short turnaround for developing the Desmosedici GP12. The team essentially started from scratch, compressing two years’ worth of R&D into a period of a few months.
Rossi, a nine-time World Champion, will be under pressure to perform this year after a disappointing 2011 campaign that saw him go winless for the first time in his Grand Prix racing career.
“I’m happy because first impressions are important, and already in the first few laps, I could tell that I like the bike. Ducati did a good job in a just a short time. The bike is beautiful, but more importantly, it’s nice to ride. The riding position has improved a lot, and it’s better on braking and corner entry. I can brake like I want to and take the lines that I like, and I feel comfortable in general. I was able to ride well and not make mistakes, and there’s a reason for that. It means that the bike can be ridden. It’s more agile in change of direction, and it wheelies much less. We’re 7 tenths back today, and of course there’s still a lot of work to do before we can win. We have to improve in some areas: acceleration, electronics, power delivery and setup. I’d say we’ll be able to make a more accurate assessment at the end of the test, because let’s remember, the bike is only 40 laps old. To leave here a second back from the top would be okay because anyway, we know that there’s still much more to be done. But one of the best things from today is that the bike reacts well to changes. That enabled us to drop one or two tenths every outing, which means further progress should be possible.” – Rossi
Hayden missed the post-season test at Valencia in October due to his injury, and he says he is still feeling pain.
“It’s great to be back at the track with the team, riding a motorcycle. We lost a little time this morning, but I hadn’t planned to ride the whole day anyway. Obviously, I wish my physical condition were better. On one hand I’m happy just to be here and not miss another test after missing the one in Valencia, but I wasn’t able to do a lot of laps, and definitely no long stints. We know how important shoulders are on these bikes, and I didn’t have the strength I would like. The bone itself was okay, but I had a lot of pain in the joint, although there was no problem with the ribs and very few problems with the wrist. Anyway, it was great to try the new bike and get some information. We made a step forward with the feeling at the front while braking and turning, but I need to find more edge grip and rear grip on entry, and a better balance with the electronics. We’ll do some treatment to my shoulder tonight and see how I feel in the morning.” – Hayden
The test continues until Feb. 2. Check back here for further updates.
[Source: Ducati, YouTube]