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Rossi returns to scene of sole Ducati rostrum
16 May 2012
Valentino Rossi returns to the scene of his only Ducati podium this weekend at Le Mans, when the struggling MotoGP superstar will attempt to improve on his best 2012 finish of seventh.
Thwarted by bad weather at the abandoned Estoril test, the Italian and team-mate Nicky Hayden will now debut a series of new developments for the GP12 - including a smoother engine - during a trio of private outings at Mugello.
But the first of those tests won't be until after this weekend's French round, with the updates then due to be phased-in between Silverstone (June 17) and Laguna Seca (July 29).
As such, Rossi and Hayden will be seeking further gains from the present package over the next two rounds.
“It's a shame that we lost the post-race test in Portugal because we would have continued our development work, and as we had very recent data from the race, we could have made some interesting comparisons,” said Rossi.
“Still, this won't influence us much from a technical point of view at Le Mans, as any updates would have arrived later anyway.”
After struggling to find a base set-up for the new 1000cc machine, Rossi has now settled on a 'long and low' approach similar to Hayden, which he will continue to refine in France.
“In France, we'll prepare for the race by working on the bike like we did at Estoril, starting from the base set-up that we're now a bit more familiar with and trying to continue with the settings one step at a time, in such a way that we reach Sunday at the maximum of our current potential," said Rossi.
“Le Mans is another place where the weather can be challenging, particularly at this time of year, but it's also the track where I had my best result with the Ducati last year. We'll see how it goes, but we'd like to do a little better than we did in Portugal.”
Rossi has been at least 26 seconds from victory so far this season, fuelling retirement rumours - which he quickly denied - to be printed in the mainstream British media.
The Doctor's 2011 Le Mans podium came after Marco Simoncelli and Dani Pedrosa clashed ahead of him. Rossi finished 14.6sec from winner Casey Stoner.
Rossi starts this weekend ninth in the 2012 championship, one point behind fellow former champion Hayden.