Yamaha's comeback MotoGP star Valentino Rossi helped soothe two poor seasons at Ducati with a competitive performance during day one of 2013 MotoGP testing at Sepang.
Just days shy of his 34th birthday and over two years since his last MotoGP win, at the same Malaysian circuit in 2010, the seven time champion was fast from the off on Tuesday.
Riding alongside all his 2013 opponents, The Doctor was 0.264s from the top at the end of the opening hour, then moved to the head of the standings at midday. Rossi was later pushed down to fourth, but a competitive 0.427s from pace setter Dani Pedrosa around the two-minute plus lap.
The Italian admitted his performance had been a 'big relief'.
“It was a big relief, because after two seasons like this you have a lot of question marks, a lot of doubt. Am I still a top rider? Am I still able to arrive at the limit with the bike?” said Rossi, speaking in the Sepang paddock after the close of testing.
“In the last two seasons the results were quite bad, but especially the difference to the top guys was huge. It was not half a second, it was 1.5-2 seconds. So for me it is a great relief today.
“What I understand in my career is that the feeling after ten laps is very important... and I was straight in the top three this morning.
“When I tried the Ducati at Valencia after three laps I understood it would be very hard. You never give up, but the first impression is very important.”
Rossi also praised the M1's clear response to set-up changes and indicated that he has achieved two of the three goals he had set for the test.
However the most important target will have to wait until Thursday.
“My targets for this test were feeling with the bike, the way to work on the bike and - especially for me the most important thing - the distance to the top by the third day,” he said.