Valentino Rossi was so pleased with the 'all new' version of his Desmosedici GP12 bike that he didn't even try last November's first incarnation of Ducati's first aluminium-frame grand prix machine.

Rossi and team-mate Nicky Hayden made their debut with the new GP12 at the start of 2012 MotoGP testing at Sepang on Tuesday, when Rossi set the fifth fastest lap time, 0.735s behind Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo.

During five days of testing at the same track last year, using the 800cc Ducati with a carbon-fibre frame, Rossi had been unable to get within one-second of the top time and was often around 1.5s off the pace.

But it wasn't just the lap time that pleased Rossi...

"We are already 'half way' compared with last year. The distance is 0.7s compared with Lorenzo, who did a very good lap," began Rossi, speaking outside the Ducati Team pit garage on Tuesday evening.

"I am so happy especially because we fixed a lot of problems that in all of the 2011 season we were not able to improve. Braking, corner entry, agility - the bike is a lot better. Ducati have done a great job in a short time.

"It is just the first day, so we must work a lot. I think in acceleration the bike remains a bit too unstable [running wide]. I think the engine and electronics, a little bit of chassis, but we can do [it] I think. We can be competitive."

Like many 800cc Desmosedici riders before him, Rossi was baffled by front-end problems throughout last year - despite several major modifications during the season.

"Now I can [load] the front tyre. I can use the front and the tyre works well," he explained. "It is a big, big step compared to last year. Also with my position on the bike, last year I never felt confident. With this one I have enough room in the straight and a good position in the corner.

"Another very positive thing today is that when we worked on the bike we improved. That is a record for me! Last year never! Always the same or maybe worse. This time we work on the bike and every exit 0.1s-0.2s faster.

"Last year on the third lap we would do a lap time - and after 50 laps the lap time was maybe a little worse!

"When you make a new bike in three months it is a great big question mark. First this new bike is beautiful, but especially it is a lot faster. We have to work but the base is good."

Having finished seventh with just one podium last season, Rossi knows there is a long road ahead before he can think about adding to his 79 premier-class wins.

"Compared to last year we have to try to fight for the podium before we can think about winning or fighting for the championship," said the seven-time MotoGP champion.

"So we are far. For sure Honda and Yamaha are very good and the riders are fast. The work ahead is hard. I will be very happy is at the end of the test we can stay under one-second from the top."

And the previous specification bike from Valencia?

"Never used," confirmed Rossi.



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