Valentino Rossi finished the opening MotoGP test of 2011, at Sepang, 'seven or eight tenths' off the pace on race tyres - but believes five or six tenths is being lost simply due to his healing shoulder.
The new Ducati rider, completing his first MotoGP laps since surgery in mid-November, was pleasantly surprised by his level of endurance at the three-day test - where he rode for 30, 42 and then 52 laps of the Malaysian Grand Prix circuit.
“I'm really happy with my shoulder because it's improving day-by-day, and even after the stress of having ridden a MotoGP bike at the limit, I don't have any problems: now it's just a question of strength,” he said.
“My mobility has improved a lot, and I no longer think my physical limitations cost me a second; let's say I lose five or six tenths, especially on braking and in corner entry.”
By the end of day three the Italian superstar had closed the gap from 1.791sec to 1.085sec from the fastest rider, leaving him tenth on the timesheets.
Subtract a further five or six tenths and he would have been sixth - and on race tyres he could be even closer.
“We worked well today and we were able to collect a lot of data and solve the chattering problem we were experiencing,” he declared. “Obviously, there's still a lot to do, but compared to the start of the test, we've definitely gotten closer to the base setup we're looking for.
“There's no need to change the Desmosedici's character; we need to take advantage of its best characteristics - its stability and its engine - and improve the other areas, especially the in-corner behaviour, to make it turn better.
“In any case, the overall evaluation of the test is definitely good; today we're a second off the top riders, and also in the afternoon, riding with race tyres, the distance stayed around seven or eight tenths.
“I still have to do more kilometers in order to understand other aspects of the GP11 but, although I have to change my riding style a little, I now feel much more at home with the Ducati.”
Team-mate Nicky Hayden was the top Desmosedici rider on day three, in eighth place.