Four rounds into the 2011 MotoGP World Championship and his Ducati tenure Valentino Rossi scored his first podium on the Desmosedici, finishing third in the French Grand Prix at the Le Mans circuit.
After the official Test which followed the previous race at Estoril the Italian benefitted from improvements to the chassis and a modified set-up on the GP11 in France. Having qualified on the third row of the grid, Rossi pushed hard in the race and was battling fellow Italian Andrea Dovizioso in the latter stages for second spot.
Rossi eventually placed third after an impressive race, and Ducati Team Manager Vittoriano Guareschi reacted to the result with great pleasure.
“We’re very happy now because we have pushed a lot to improve the bike,” said the Italian. “Now we want to keep finishing on the podium with Valentino, and after a lot of work we want to maintain these good results. We made many modifications to the bike; a new set-up, new frame, and other things.”
With Casey Stoner winning the race by a margin of over 14 seconds and his team-mate Dovizioso shading Rossi by 0.350s it was a Honda one-two, and Guareschi knows the task for Ducati remains a tough one of competing with its rival.
“Now it’s very difficult because the Honda this year is very strong. It’s necessary we take another step,” he said. “We are working a lot in Ducati, the guys are working day and night, and this result strengthens us. We want to continue in this manner.”
The next challenge will be the Catalunya circuit in just under three weeks, a track at which Rossi has won six times in the premier class and where the Desmosedici has twice taken victory (in 2003 with Loris Capirossi and in 2007 with Casey Stoner).
“Normally in Catalunya Valentino is very strong and we made a good set-up for the race here (at Le Mans). We got the last modification before the race (weekend) and made more before the race, and these modifications improved the rhythm and the feeling for Valentino.”
He added: “We’ll start with this set-up (at Catalunya) and we’ll try to improve, but it’s not easy. Now we are happy and to finish on the podium at Le Mans is good.”