MotoGP: Rossi (Again) Off to a Slow Pace

2012 Qatar MotoGP First Official Practice

The first official practice session of 2012 MotoGP got underway Thursday at Losail International Circuit, and nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi was once again off to a slow pace, a not-so shocking story.

The Ducati Team rider, who struggled with the desmo throughout 2011, finished Thursday’s Free Practice 1 session under the Qatar floodlights in 10th overall with a 1:57.914.

This placed Rossi 1.440 seconds behind Thursday’s FP1 leader, Casey Stoner aboard the Repsol Honda RC213V. This was also a familiar situation throughout the pre-season MotoGP tests, as Rossi struggled to stay within a second of the reigning champion.

Throughout Thursday’s session, Ducati says Rossi worked on the final setup of the GP12, and used a hard tire option throughout the 45-minute session.

Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team GP12 MotoGP) says: “It’s the first practice and I used the hard tyre the whole session, trying to do a lot of laps in order to understand it. The new tire is much better for warming up, so good for safety, but it started to slide a lot after some laps and made some of the understeer worse.

“We have to work with the setting and also the electronics. The soft will be important for Saturday, but the hard will be the tire for the race. Tomorrow we’ll try to do better.”

The Italian is clearly struggling with the GP12 as he and his teammate Nicky Hayden continue to familiarize themselves with the more powerful, 1000cc machine.

But Hayden’s story was quite different Thursday – the American took the third fastest time behind Stoner and the second fastest rider, Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo.

Rossi will be back on Qatar today for the second and third free-practice sessions ahead of Saturday’s qualifying and Sunday’s race. Will he show more steam on the softer, qualifying tires? Will he find a more optimal setup on the GP12?

As a nine-time World Champion, including seven in the premier class – the most of any rider competing – there’s always hope. But as these slow paces continue, that hope diminishes more and more…

Stay clicked to for future practice results as they become available.