Valentino Rossi has revealed that more 'experiments' will be on the agenda for Ducati with its new GP11.1 in this weekend's German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring, as he seeks to refine and perfect the set-up of the bike that he hopes will turn the team's disappointing 2011 season around.
From the opening eight races of the campaign, record-breaking MotoGP legend Rossi has tallied just a single podium finish – at Le Mans two months ago – and sits a distant fourth in the title standings, with scant hope of doing battle for an eighth premier class crown.
The Italian's best qualifying position to-date has been seventh – back on the third row of the grid – and in the last three outings, he has failed even to make the top ten. The introduction of the hybrid GP11.1 in the Dutch TT at Assen last month failed to yield much discernible improvement – with only eleventh place in qualifying and fourth in the race, more than half-a-minute adrift of victory – but 'The Doctor' is convinced that further pace can be extracted this weekend.
“At Mugello, we started working with the set-up in a direction that we had never tried before,” explained Rossi, a five-time winner at the Sachsenring. “We used it on Sunday in the warm-up, so we weren't able to spend much time on it. The bike worked better in the race than it had in practice, but we still need to do more experiments with these settings.
“At the Sachsenring, we'll see if they might be a good starting-point. The track is tricky in some spots, but it's a circuit that I like. Last year, I returned to racing in Germany after the injury to my leg, and it was a nice race. We hope the weather and temperature will be good, because we need to work on the set-up as much as possible before the race.”
Staging the midway encounter of 2011, the tight and compact, 3.7km Sachsenring is distinguished by a preponderance of left-hand corners and a narrow, technical layout. The German circuit's counter-clockwise nature is also a hit with Nicky Hayden, who has ascended the rostrum there on four previous occasions.
“The Sachsenring is a tight, scrappy little track, but it's one I quite like,” confirmed the American, 14 points and one spot behind his team-mate in the riders' standings. “It's got the shortest lap time of the whole year apart from Laguna [Seca], but it's a long race and we're on the left-side of the tyre for much of the time. There are a lot of big left-handers, which I always enjoy, and I've had some good results there.
“The thing that sticks out for me is that it's almost two parts; the first bit is really tight and slow, and then the last bit is really fast and open, especially with what they call the Waterfall corner, which is fifth-gear, downhill and blind. That's about as good as it gets, and I'm not sure there's a better corner on the entire calendar.”
“The Sachsenring is very different from Mugello, and it will be interesting to learn whether the latest changes to the set-up that we tried on the GP11.1 during the Italian GP will be a good starting-point,” added Ducati team manager Vittoriano Guareschi, with the Italian manufacturer boasting a strong previous record in Germany, missing the top six only once in eight starts since its 2003 arrival in MotoGP, albeit tallying just a single triumph.
“We'll see if those settings can also adapt to features like those of the German track, which is narrow and winding. Vale has won there on many occasions, and last year he rode well on his return from injury. Nicky has also made the podium there a number of times. We hope it will be nice for the entire weekend so that we can finally do all the practice sessions and the race with the same weather conditions.”