MotoGP superstar Valentino Rossi admits he faces an overwhelming challenge to put himself on a par with world champion Casey Stoner and Honda in 2012.

Rossi struggled to make an impact on the elite championship last season, failing to register a victory during a frustrating maiden campaign with Ducati.

However the Grand Prix legend is not pouring cold water on his chances completely and expects a marked improvement from the new GP12 machine.

Speaking at the annual Ducati and Ferrari Wrooom media event at Madonna di Campiglio in Italy on Tuesday, Rossi told the assembled press: "The championship is difficult because the gap in 2011 was quite big. Our target is to fix problems step by step, and try to come closer to Yamaha and Honda. And from that moment, start to fix all the details, to be competitive for the victory.

"I do not want to say from the start that I cannot fight for the championship, but I have to be realistic. In the end there was 1.5 seconds we have to recover, and our target is to get close to the others and be able to race with them and fight with them. This is our goal.

"We know we need time, but we work well together - and it is a dream to try and win the first race. But in reality, we are a bit too far off - but maybe the new bike is a miracle."

The new GP12 machine failed to light up the post-season Valencia test and Rossi is aware that it is unrealistic to expect a dramatic turnaround in fortunes at the forthcoming pre-season test at Sepang in Malaysia at the end of January.

"I think that the first test will be important, and for sure the bike will be different compared to last year. It is impossible to be competitive from the first test, but I think we will have some good information to work with, and be ready for the first race," he said.

"Last year was a lot worse because from the first test we understood that the season will be very tough and difficult. After three laps we understood we could not win the first race, but now the situation is better - because I am fit.

"Today I am in shape physically, and we have two or three weeks ahead of us. I am ready for the first test. It is nice to work with Ducati, even if unfortunately the results have been under our expectations. The atmosphere is nice and we all believe in what we are doing."