A lot has changed in the year since Valentino Rossi made his Ducati debut at Qatar in 2011.

But despite multiple frame incarnations - leading up to the full twin-spar chassis on the final version of this year's GP12 - and MotoGP's switch from 800 to 1000cc engines, the Italian finds himself in a similar position to last year heading into Sunday's season-opening night race.

A strong debut test at Sepang with the GP12 was followed by a wrong turn with set-up at the second Malaysian visit, which took until the final day of the Jerez test to correct.

Rossi, seventh in the championship with one podium last year, concluded the pre-season with the sixth fastest lap time, 0.953sec behind Casey Stoner (Honda) in Spain.

At Qatar 2011, Rossi took the chequered flag in seventh place, 16 seconds from winner Stoner after 22 laps.

Although optimistic that he and Ducati are back on track in terms of set-up, The Doctor doesn't expect any miracles when it comes to taking on the pace-setting factory Hondas and Yamahas this weekend.

"We worked hard over the winter, and although we went the wrong direction at one point, we once again managed to find the good feeling with the GP12 that we'd had in the first test," said Rossi.

"With those settings, which we'll start with in Qatar, I was able to get good feedback from the bike.

"At Losail it will be very important to work well during the sessions leading up to qualifying so that we can increase our confidence step by step as we approach Saturday, always trying to maximize our potential.

"I'm a realist, and I know well that our times are still a long way off and that there are still some things to fix.

"We won't be able to address some of them right away, but it's also true that both we at the track and the guys back home now have a direction to work in, and we must try to do as well as we can.

"We won't completely redo the bike during the season, but we'll try to progress little by little," concluded the 79-time 500cc/MotoGP race winner.

Upgrades for the GP12 are already in the pipeline, but are not expected to be race ready for at least several rounds.

"We know that other steps await and we've planned for them, and as always, the races will give us more accurate answers than the tests," said team manager Vittoriano Guareschi.

"Although our priority will be to work toward putting Vale and Nicky [Hayden] in the best conditions possible for Sunday, I'm sure that we'll also gather important information to help us continue improving our bike."

Opening practice at Losail takes place on Thursday evening.

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