It hasn’t been a typical pre-season for MotoGP Champion Valentino Rossi. One only has to look to the 2011 numbers to quickly understand how much Rossi has struggled adapting to the Ducati GP11.
In the Sepang 1 test, Rossi finished 11th overall on the GP11, 1.085 seconds behind leader Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V).
At Sepang 2, Rossi was also 11th fastest overall, but this time he trailed leader Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V) by 1.8 seconds. To complicate things, the nine-time world champion missed the second day of testing at Sepang 2 due to a flu-like sickness.
After these not-so typical results, the MotoGP world kept waiting for those usual Rossi-like results. Everyone simply assumed Rossi would adapt very quickly to the Ducati GP11, and many thought this would come at the final pre-season test of 2011 MotoGP at Qatar Sunday and Monday.
But like a repeat of the Sepang tests, Rossi failed to top the time sheets. Vale’s best at Qatar was a 1:56.988, which gave him the 13th fastest lap, 1.3 seconds behind overall Qatar leader, Stoner (again).
Then there were the accidents; Rossi went down both days at Losail International Circuit, although the 31-year-old Italian walked away from both.
The Ducati MotoGP team issued the usual statements following the final day of Qatar testing Monday after VR46 completed 50 laps. Rossi wasn’t too worried those accidents, but rather the lack of strength in his shoulder.
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Marlboro Team GP11) says: "I’d say that today was pretty challenging: the weather conditions were much tougher than yesterday, and I had another crash when I slipped on a white line.
"Fortunately, I just fell over on the ground-it was nothing serious. The real problem was that at about an hour and a half from the finish, I started to lose strength in my shoulder, and I just couldn’t push anymore.
"It’s a shame, because I had just done my best time, and I may have been able to drop it a little more from there. Instead, we didn’t even mount the two soft tires that we had. I started on a long run, but I stopped because I was losing tenths lap after lap.
"Let’s say that we’re not as far back as it looks, although we still have a lot of work to do, regarding both the bike and myself, because the shoulder is evidently not yet able to bear two such intense days of testing. Between now and Thursday, I’ll do some light exercise and have it massaged, and then we’ll see."
But there’s a problem. Rossi only has two days off until Thursday, when MotoGP will run the first practice for the opening round at Qatar. Then there’s practice on Friday, qualifying on Saturday, and the big race on Sunday.
If Rossi is having major shoulder issues after a two-day test, it’s easy to assume more problems will be lurking when the MotoGP grid begins practice this Thursday.
Many of Rossi’s most devout fans (including the writer) will be hoping the "light exercise" and massaging will help, but based on Rossi’s performance leading up to the first round of MotoGP, negativity is hard to resist.
In bocca al lupo, Rossi!