After a stressful pre-season, and so-so results at the opening round of 2011 MotoGP in Qatar, Valentino Rossi appeared to regain some rhythm Friday at the opening practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix.
The nine-time World Champion Rossi was third fastest aboard the Ducati Team GP11 in Free Practice 1, a morning session when temperatures were a bit cooler at the Jerez MotoGP circuit.
Valentino Rossi was 0.526 of a second behind the leader, Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner, and 0.498 behind the second-fastest rider, Stoner’s teammate Dani Pedrosa.
These are the best results so far this MotoGP season for Rossi, who continues to struggle with the Ducati GP11; Rossi also lacks strength in the shoulder he injured last season while motocross training.
In Free Practice 2, the winds picked up as the temperatures ascended. Rossi wasn’t able to catch the lead MotoGP riders, the Italian finishing fifth fastest, 0.855 behind the quickest rider, Pedrosa. In both sessions, Valentino Rossi was the fastest of the Ducati riders.
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Marlboro Team GP11) says: “I’m happy because this morning I did the third-fastest time, and in the afternoon, when the higher temperature hurt us a little, I was fifth.
“Anyway, most of the riders went a bit slower in the second session. Apart from the two Hondas at the front, we’re closer to everyone else, which was our goal. It was a good day. There’s still work to do; we’re trying to find the right balance, and that’s why we’re trying two settings that are a little different from each other as we work on weight distribution.
“We have to improve the front feeling a little; the bike that I prefer still doesn’t turn like we want it to, which means we’ll have to find a compromise between the two setups. As for my shoulder, I don’t have much strength, but in terms of endurance, it’s a little better.”
Valentino Rossi will be back on the Jerez circuit Saturday morning for Free Practice 3 and MotoGP qualifying. The track has treated Rossi fair in the past; Rossi has eight wins there, six in the premier MotoGP class.