By Rod Hanrick

After disappointing results in Sunday's Australian round, Ducati heads straight to Sepang for this weekend's Malaysian MotoGP, where they will be able to compare the latest version of the Desmosedici GP11.1 with the 'original' bike tested at the same track in February.

"The Desmosedici that will take to the track on Friday is different from the one we used in the winter tests, and this event will let us make some interesting comparisons with the data that we collect," confirmed Team Manager Vittoriano Guareschi.

The Bologna-based team has made multiple changes to the frame design, materials and airbox configurations since the Sepang tests to try and improve the Ducati's infamous lack of front-end feel.

"Here in Malaysia, we'll continue working on the GP11.1, both for the race and in order to gather information for our work program with an eye toward 2012," said Guareschi.

Ducati has achieved two Malaysian Grand Prix victories with Casey Stoner and had a rider finish in the top six at every Sepang event since 2003.

Valentino Rossi won last year's race for Yamaha and regards the track as one of his favourites.

"I like the Sepang circuit a lot, although the weather conditions are always extreme," said Rossi, who crashed out in Australia. "We didn't have much good luck in Australia, and we also had to work harder than expected on the bike's setup."

Rossi is also looking forward to seeing how much difference the changes to the Desmosedici have made.

"We'll be able to verify where we are compared to the tests that we did here," he said. "We tested many days at Sepang, and it will be interesting to compare things now with what we had then."

The success of the changes to the GP11 are probably better determined by judging the results of Nicky Hayden, as the American has been riding versions of the Desmosedici since 2009.

Hayden is a fan of the varied nature of the Malaysian circuit and qualified second for last year's grand prix. Hayden has finished fifth and sixth in his two previous Sepang races for Ducati.

"The Sepang circuit has a good mix of everything, so you need the bike to do everything well. There are some long straightaways where you need a fast bike that brakes well, along with some fast corners, like Turns 5 and 6 and a section in the back," he said.

"On the other hand, there are also some slow little hairpins, so it's a good mix of everything that really challenges a rider and bike."

The 2006 world champion is also keen to discover how successful the development work has been.

"It will be interesting to get back on this track after spending a lot of time here in February. The bike has changed a lot, so we'll see what kind of progress we've actually made."

Ducati has already used all eight days of testing for its 1000cc bike and will now rely heavily on the results of the GP11.1 from this weekend's race to direct further development for the 2012 bike.

Free practice on the 5.548km Sepang circuit begins on Friday.


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