The 9,690km trip from Kuala Lumpur to Italy will be a pleasant one for Andrea Dovizioso after he successfully made his way through Ducati's lengthy testing plan at Sepang, and showed the GP17's potential to be very high indeed.
“Now I go home happy,” beamed the 30-year old on Wednesday evening, after he set the third fastest time of the day, enough to place fourth overall, behind Maverick Viñales, Andrea Iannone and Marc Marquez.
Dovizioso highlighted the new machine's ability to brake late and enter turns aggressively as reasons to be positive. The much-talked about turning issues that were a hindrance throughout 2016 were also improved, although the Italian feels he and Ducati still “have a margin” to improve.
“I'm really happy about that because I have a good feeling with the bike,” said Dovizioso, whose own personal best was just 0.185s off Viñales' fastest time.
“I can brake well but especially be aggressive on entry. So [I'm] really happy about the start. The base is really good. We are really competitive when compared to our competitor.
“I saw some riders during these three days and it was nice to ride with them. Still we have something like last year to improve. But we are very close and the feeling is really good.
“For sure this is not the base. I mean, until Qatar everything can change. We will not race tomorrow and everything can happen and I believe we have a margin, like the competitor. We will see. Now I go home happy.”
While first impressions of the new machine are good, Dovizioso noticed the Ducati's turning ability is still lagging behind its competitors, meaning work still lies ahead of the season opener.
“I think the turning is better because we don't have the winglets but still I think it's not good like some other bikes. That's why I believe this is one of the points I'm convinced we have to improve.”
Dovizioso also sampled the machine which features the 'salad box' situated next to the rear exhaust. As expected, the Italian remained tight-lipped on its benefits.
“The goal [of testing both bikes] wasn't to have a big difference. There wasn't a big difference. It's very similar about the result but it was what we expected because there is some difference but it's for the future, not for today. I did a good lap time with both.”
Much is expected of Ducati Corse's Gigi Dall'Igna in the coming months, as the factory is believed to be working on aerodynamic bodywork features that should limit the loss of winglets.
Movistar Yamaha riders Viñales and Valentino Rossi tested a new fairing with internal ducts on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Dovizioso will surely sample redesigned bodywork in the coming tests in Australia and Qatar.
“For sure everyone will try and develop the aerodynamics so for sure everyone will change something,” he said.
“I don't know if it will be at the beginning of the season, in the middle or the end… But nothing is fixed. The idea is not clear for everyone, in which way is better to go. Still there is a big question on which is the best.”