At the end of January, the first official MotoGP test of 2012 took place at Sepang. It was an emotional return to the track where Marco Simoncelli had lost his life only a few months previously.
Valentino Rossi and the Ducati team took the brand new GP12 bike out for its first laps – the bike was 90% new, and the Ducati team had endured a demanding winter schedule in order to get the Ducati GP12 ready, effectively building it from the ground up.
Valentino Rossi stated that he would be using the Marco Simoncelli tribute helmet for the pre-season testing, and aside from a brief test with a new AGV carbon-fibre prototype helmet, Rossi was true to his word. The Simoncelli Tribute helmet is a design created by Aldo Drudi (who also designed Simoncelli’s original helmet), and it blends Rossi’s helmet design with Simoncelli’s. Read more about the Valentino Rossi Simoncelli helmet.
Over the course of the test Rossi managed to take 1.568 seconds off his time from Day 1 to Day 3, but the gap to the front runner, Casey Stoner, also grew.
Valentino Rossi said:
“We are already ‘half way’ compared with last year. The distance is 0.7s compared with Lorenzo, who did a very good lap 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. I think the engine and electronics, a little bit of chassis, but we can do I think. We can be competitive.”
“Now I can load the front tyre. I can use the front and the tyre works well. 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!”
Video of Valentino Rossi at the first MotoGP Sepang Test: