Valentino Rossi may only have completed 18 wet laps on the 'new' Ducati GP11.1 at Assen on Thursday, but that was enough to give the Italian a favourable impression.

The surprise GP11.1 development combines this year's 800cc engine with next year's (1000cc) chassis and a new seamless transmission gearbox, as Ducati attempts to gain meaningful ground on the MotoGP leaders.

Rossi finished the lone Thursday practice session for the Dutch TT - the afternoon session was cancelled due to oil on the track - in second place, 0.360sec behind fellow Italian Marco Simoncelli.

After struggling so badly in the wet last time out at Silverstone, it was just the kind of result Rossi needed and the seven-time MotoGP champion claimed he could feel the difference the GP11.1 made.

"We only had one practice session with the new bike, so it's very early to make a full verdict, but the first feelings are certainly positive," he said. "The GP11 also went well in the wet, but the GP11.1 didn't just maintain the positive aspects; I actually liked it a little bit more, so I'm curious to also try it in dry conditions.

"Unfortunately, they cancelled the afternoon session because of an oil leak in Moto2; it would have been very nice to continue - in either the wet or the dry - the work that we started."

Rossi will now aim to make use of the extended 90-minute Friday morning session to prepare the GP11.1 for its first qualifying session.

"We'll have an hour and a half tomorrow morning, but we'll have to work differently because we can't make as many changes as we can in two separate sessions," he continued.

"Anyway, we're happy for now. The new gearbox helps with acceleration on corner exits, and the rear of the bike is more stable. Now I can ride more naturally. There are still some small things to improve with the bike's character, but we knew that and will continue to work on it."

Having already used four engines this year, Rossi's team-mate Nicky Hayden will stick with the standard GP11 until Laguna Seca (round ten) - although the American does have a new chassis this weekend.

Hayden was an unhappy ninth fastest in Thursday practice, 2.241sec behind Simoncelli.

"This morning didn't go particularly well," he said. "I just couldn't get a good feeling, and we were having a few issues. The clutch wasn't working well on corner-entry, and we didn't completely understand why until after the session. I wasn't so fast, which isn't good after coming from Silverstone, where I was strong in the wet.

"This afternoon getting canceled was a bit of a letdown when you've got your leathers on and are ready to go. It was also a shame for the diehard fans who stayed around waiting, and for those who planned to watch on TV, but the officials did the right thing for having oil on the track. For tomorrow, we'll just see what the weather's going to do and take advantage of whatever conditions we have."

Rossi and Hayden have taken one podium each (a third place) in the six rounds so far this year.


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