The Factory Ducati team has reasons for both optimism and caution ahead of this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.
Sepang is MotoGP's favoured winter test track and, after a promising first test, Ducati struggled in February's second and final three-day visit, when lead rider Valentino Rossi
was left tenth on the timesheets.
But that was when the new-for-2012 aluminium frame was in its very early stages of development and this weekend will prove just how much Ducati has closed the gap.
The track characteristics could also help - last weekend's Motegi round saw Rossi and Nicky Hayden
struggle for traction under hard acceleration, but Sepang has a much more flowing layout.
“We'll see what awaits us at Sepang, because we didn't do very well there during the winter tests. Still, many months have passed since then, and now with the new frame and swingarm, the bike is better,” said Rossi, who finished seventh in Japan.
“The race and the whole weekend will certainly be very difficult because of the high temperatures, which present a challenge for both the bike and the riders. That said, it's obviously not our first time, and we know what to expect. We'll try to do our best.”
The weekend will also be tough from a personal point of view, marking the one-year anniversary of Marco Simoncelli's tragic accident, which Rossi and Colin Edwards
were involved in.
Rossi's team-mate Nicky Hayden
revealed there will be a 'few new parts' to try and the American hopes for less problems with his injured wrist.
“Motegi is behind us, and hopefully Malaysia we can do a better result and have a better weekend,” said Hayden, eighth at Motegi.
“We need to be able to start better on Friday. We do have a few new parts to try this weekend that may help, and hopefully my wrist will be stronger now that it's been three weeks since I hurt it.
“The track has less downhill braking, so it might not cause me as much pain as it did last weekend.”
Team manager Vittoriano Guareschi weighed up the technical challenge facing the Desmosedici riders.