Valentino Rossi, 'very worried' after struggling with similar problems to last year with the 'all new' Ducati GP12 during the final Sepang test, was again dogged by front-end issues on day one of MotoGP testing at Jerez.
The seven-time MotoGP champion, initially buoyed by the handling characteristics of the 1000cc GP12 with its new aluminium frame, looks increasingly in danger of being stuck in the same rut as last season.
Rossi, winless since leaving Yamaha, was ninth fastest after day one of the final pre-season test, 1.7sec from Honda's Casey Stoner and 0.4sec from team-mate Nicky Hayden (sixth).
“We solved some things today, but not one important thing, which is corner entry, especially in the fastest part of the turn,” said Rossi. “I'm not able to be incisive there, and it's where most of our gap comes from. I can't load the front enough to enter fast, so I don't carry enough speed through the corner, and that's why we're far from the front.
“We found a more promising setting toward the end and I was able to repeat my fast time with a tyre that was very used, but it was already 5:30 and the temperature had dropped, so we decided to start working on it again tomorrow because we think there's a margin.
“Nicky went better today, and we also have to reduce the gap.”
Having broken his wrist just before the Valencia test, then his shoulder in a winter training accident, Hayden is finally testing at full strength this week.
“After missing the test at Valencia and having to do damage control in Malaysia, where I wasn't strong, especially at the first test, it was nice to be able to get back on the bike today and feel close to 100 per cent physically,” he said. “I felt good here and I was able to ride all day and finish sixth, which isn't bad even if the gap is obviously still too big.
“We got off to a nice start, but we didn't improve enough, while the guys ahead of us continued to make progress. It's a little frustrating, although we gathered a lot of data by being able to ride all day without trying a million different things, and we have some good ideas for tomorrow. Of course our goal is to get closer to the leaders, especially with the lap time.”
Two more days of testing remain before the opening round is held at Qatar from April 5-8.