The final score sheet may not read the way Ducati would have liked, yet does little to hide the significant progress made by the team in a Jerez race weekend which proved to be a battle with the elements.
Ducati started the weekend on a high, as Valentino Rossi set the second fastest time in the wet during Friday´s free practice. This was followed up in qualifying by a spectacular lap from Nicky Hayden in the dry, to give the Italian team their first front row start since Valencia 2010. Team Manager Vittoriano Guareschi was particularly pleased with the American´s performance: “Nicky finishing qualifying in such a top position was a very good result. This was very positive because it gives us a much clearer picture about our potential ability.”
Guareschi however, refused to get carried away, as Rossi struggled in the dry qualifying session, and ultimately reverted to a setting similar to that of his team mate: “We had a very difficult weekend, made especially tough with the weather conditions. We tried a lot different settings, especially with Valentino. In the last session, the pre-race morning warm up, we tried a completely different setup, which was a small modification that brought a big change. Valentino rode a good race, and finished it with a good rhythm.”
Hayden, who suffered from tyre degradation early on in the race, is confident that the bike has got a lot of potential: “We know our bike is great at generating heat in the tyres, and for the first few laps, I was able do what I wanted. Then about the time it looked like the other guys’ tyres came up to temperature, mine had already started losing grip, especially in the front. My setup was okay, but to really try to go with those guys wasn’t possible. The bike’s got a lot of potential, but at the moment, the gap to the rest is still too far. Hopefully we can get a dry weekend in Estoril and try to be closer to the front on Sunday.”
Rossi, who had to adapt his riding style for the race with his new settings, was upbeat with the weekend´s positive signs: “The positive thing from today’s race is that I think it might help us to do a bit better in the coming events, starting next week in Portugal. Today we used a setup that’s new for us, and it gave some positive signs. I wasn’t going bad once I found my rhythm, in the sense that I was matching the times of those who were fighting for sixth place, and I was able to push until the end, doing a 1:41.0 on the penultimate lap. This helps me to be a little more optimistic as I look ahead to the next races because if I’m able to ride a bit better, it could be a place for us to start from.”
Guareschi concludes that the bike´s rhythm and continuity hold the key to a successful next round in Estoril: “We still need to improve the bike´s rhythm during the race, but at every round we are taking another step forward. This is important because we want to reduce the gap to the front for the rest of the season.”