Valentino Rossi believes MotoGP races will become more difficult for the riders in 2016.
The Italian star, runner -up to Movistar Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo last season, delivered that verdict at the conclusion of a promising pre-season in Qatar on Friday.
Like Lorenzo and several other riders, Rossi used the final day of track action before the Losail season-opener to complete his first race simulation with the new Michelin tyres and standard ECU system.
“In the end today was a good day. Unfortunately I had another small crash in the same corner [as Wednesday], but I'm quite happy about the last two hours,” Rossi began.
“We improved the setting of the bike, I improved my pace and did a good time attack. That was one of my targets and especially the race simulation was not so bad, because I did 15 laps with good pace.
“For sure the tyre moves and slides, but you can push and stay on the rhythm, so this is good.”
The new unified software means there are no longer any 'adaptive strategies', which in the past would automatically fine-tune engine output to maintain a pre-set level of wheelspin at each corner.
Now, the only way a rider can adjust things like traction control to compensate for tyre wear or changing grip during a race is to use the buttons on the handlebar.
“The long run was important because you don't feel a lot of difference [with the new electronics] if you do four or five laps, but after yes,” Rossi explained. “So the races will become more difficult for the rider. You have to do a lot more work. So you have to play more with the bike compared to last year. I think it can be interesting.”
Rossi left the test with the fifth fastest lap time, 0.619s behind Lorenzo but only 0.1s from best of the rest Redding - as a Yamaha, Ducati, Suzuki and Honda filled the top four places on the timesheet.
“I think in these three tests the other bikes improve a lot, because at Sepang the gap was big,” Rossi said. “Now we are all closer and also the Ducatis are very fast. So I think it will be very tough next week. The good thing is that we are competitive and the bike is good with the Michelin.
The nine time world champion, who won the season-opener in 2015, added: “As always in the race everything can change, because you have a lot of different factors. But we hope to be ready and the good thing is that our bike has been competitive at the three different tracks during testing.”
One of the remaining question marks for Rossi is in terms of the front tyre.
“We have to keep attention because yesterday the soft was not so bad but today it was too soft. Yesterday the hard gave me some problems but today it was good, because the grip increased, the track was cleaner, and you can use the harder. If we can use the harder I'm happy because I like harder tyres.”
Rossi was second fastest at the opening test in Sepang, then sixth overall at Phillip Island, prior to this week's Qatar test.
Valentino Rossi: Qatar test - race simulation:
1. 1m 57.315
2. 2m 03.798
3. 1m 56.176
4. 1m 56.234
5. 1m 56.202
6. 2m 00.483
7. 2m 02.229
8. 1m 56.233
9. 1m 56.063
10. 1m 56.360
11. 1m 56.642
12. 1m 56.072
13. 1m 56.062
14. 1m 55.974