Valentino Rossi heads to one of Ducati's most successful circuits, Motegi, for this weekend's delayed Japanese MotoGP.
The Desmosedici has won four of the last six races at Motegi, claiming three victories with Loris Capirossi (2005-2007) and one with Casey Stoner (2010).
Rossi has taken two Motegi victories, in 2001 (Honda) and 2008 (Yamaha), but a third win this weekend would be a real shock.
The seven-time MotoGP champion's first season at Ducati has all but been written off in terms of race results, as attention turned ever more to major modifications for the Desmosedici.
Motegi will be Rossi's second race with an aluminium (rather than carbon fibre) front section on the GP11.1, which replaced the original GP11 at Assen. Rossi starts this weekend sixth in the championship.
“I had a nice race last year at Motegi, despite having a painful shoulder. I had a nice duel with Lorenzo, and I finished on the podium," said Rossi, referring to his thrilling bar-to-bar fight with his former Yamaha team-mate.
"The Ducati won last year and has also gone well there in the past, so we'll see if we can do any better than we have at the recent races.
"It's true that we're having to work very hard, but we always approach every grand prix with the goal of doing better. We'll try hard this Sunday as well, working on the track with what we have available at this time, while also simultaneously focusing on the future.”
Rossi has been back on next year's GP12 since the last MotoGP round at Aragon, when a full version of an aluminium frame may
have been tested.
That is unlikely to be seen on the 800cc bike, with only rounds remaining and the engine limit already breached, but team manager Vittoriano Guareschi believes there is plenty of development still possible from the both the aluminium and carbon GP11.1s.
“It's time for the Japanese Grand Prix, where we'll continue our work program on the GP11.1, which certainly still has a margin for improvement in terms of its setup," he said.