Despite finishing outside the top-five, Ducati’s Valentino Rossi was pleased with being less than 13 seconds behind the leader.
Valentino Rossi and Ducati are quietly confident that new front-end changes to the Italian’s factory GP11.1 will bring him closer to mounting a consistent challenge for podium finishes in the final part of this year’s MotoGP world championship. The modifications improved Rossi’s confidence in the braking zone and corner entry and while he still only finished sixth, the margin to the winner was much less than in previous races. Rossi was only 12.6s adrift of dominant winner Casey Stoner, but that was a major improvement on his sixth position last month in Laguna Seca when he was more than 30 seconds behind the Australian.
The seven-time MotoGP world champion said: “I am quite happy with the result because we made a step. We made a step forward from Saturday morning on the wet and in dry and also for the race pace. I’m happy because Ducati is very clever and made some small modifications with the stuff we have and it improved a lot my feeling with the front, so now braking and entry and to use the front tire, it looks like the situation is better. I started with the target to fight with the guys in front of me but unfortunately I made a bad start and we made a mistake in the warming up procedure for the tires.
“I was in trouble in the first two laps and I don’t have enough grip and I lose more than two seconds in the first three laps. After I made a race that was possible to arrive on or very close to the podium. We have to work to improve because all the Yamahas and Hondas are very strong and it looks now we are closer and this is a more normal sixth place. Compared to Laguna the distance to the top is much less and I gave up on the last two laps. If not I could stay within 10 seconds instead of the 30 like always when we use this bike (GP11.1). Also if you take out Stoner I was not so far from the podium, so we know we have to work but we have a step.”
Rossi had laughed off rumors he’s trying to end his Ducati nightmare by securing a Honda ride next season. And the nine-time world champion also poked fun at Yamaha World Superbike rider Marco Melandri, who is being
Rossi: “I will race for Ducati next year and this is not in doubt. I have already signed a contract, so the situation is 100% fixed and for sure I will race with Ducati, if Melandri agrees.”
blamed for leaking a rumor that Rossi had contacted Honda team boss Fausto Gresini about a move back to HRC in 2012.
Rossi, who left Honda at the end of 2003 to move to Yamaha’s factory squad, denied the speculation on the eve of this weekend’s Czech Republic round in Brno. When asked if he’s seen the stories linking him with a shock switch back to Honda, the 32-year-old said: “I read especially about something from my new manager that is the superbike rider Marco Melandri that know very well my decision for next year. It is better that you speak with him.”
Although Rossi’s scored just one podium for the Bologna factory back in Le Mans, Rossi said he has no intention of not honoring his Ducati contract and added: “Apart from the joke, I will race for Ducati next year but this is not in doubt. I have already a contract signed, so the situation is 100% fixed and for sure I will race with Ducati, if Melandri agrees.”
As for Rossi’s rivals, title contenders Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo have said they are surprised and baffled at Rossi’s failure to be a more competitive force on Ducati’s factory Desmosedici machine in 2011. Stoner won 23 races in a four-year stint with the Bologna factory and he delivered Ducati its first MotoGP world title in dominant fashion back in 2007. Rossi has failed to make a major impact since he quit Yamaha and hasn’t even come close to claiming regular podiums, let alone victories in a bitterly disappointing campaign so far.
Stoner, who won three out of the last six races for Ducati in 2010 before he switched to Honda’s factory squad, said he was at a loss to explain why Rossi had found the transfer such a complex challenge.
Multiple riders, like Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo, have repeatedly been shocked by Rossi’s lack of results at Ducati.
Stoner, winner of six out of 11 races in 2011 for Honda, including a stunning success at Laguna Seca last month and most recently at Brno, said before the Czech GP got underway: “I knew the bike from last season but now he is on a bike they have developed themselves so I have no idea, I’ve never ridden his bike. This is the bike they thought would be a step forward. It was a hard bike to ride but I was able to be successful over the past few years although not as successful as I would like, and I also made some mistakes. But it is surprising because the talent of Valentino is a lot better than this and I’m sure if he was still on a Yamaha he would be pushing for victory. His speed is still there, so they just need to find out what is wrong the bike. But I really expected them to get closer.”
Reigning world champion Lorenzo too says he’s been shocked at Rossi’s struggle to be competitive for the Bologna factory in the opening races of the season. The Mallocran said he expected a much stronger threat from bitter rival Rossi after the Italian’s big money switch from Yamaha, where the pair were teammates between 2008 and ’10.
Lorenzo said: “The performance of Valentino has surprised me a little bit. I thought he would be more in front, at least making podiums but at this moment he’s only made one podium and that was only because two riders in front of him crashed. I’m surprised with the performance of Valentino because sometimes riders like (Randy) de Puniet or (Karel) Abraham are sometimes faster than him. But I am also surprised about the performance Casey made in the last few years with the Ducati. I’m surprised that he was able to win races and fight for the title seeing all the other riders struggling so much with that bike. The man was Casey.”