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GP Week : Issue 154
Valentino Rossi’s Ducati saga took a turn for the better at Le Mans. Second place, his first rostrum since the same race a year ago, proved it. But the signs of gradual improvement actually started two weeks earlier at Estoril. Actually even before that, at Jerez, where his crew finally realised that their own development ideas applied to the new purpose-built aluminium full chassis were making no progress, while Hayden on the other side of the garage was consistently beating the big star. Finally they abandoned their own direction, and followed Nicky’s and Ducati’s instead. As Rossi explained it at the time: he likes a bike to be short and high to suit his style. Nicky’s bike is by comparison longer and lower. They switched to the different settings on race day, and noticed an immediate improvement. Bad weather in practice at Estoril made progress along the same route difficult, but they did “arrive at a good base setting,” the rider said. Le Mans weather was better through free practice, and now they started to get a handle on things. “We’ve made a small step,” he said after qualifying sixth, his best of the year. He expected another in the coming weeks, with two days of private testing before the next round in Catalunya, and two more official test days after wards. “We need to catch the satellite Yamahas. They are a little bit faster than us. The factory bikes are further away,” said Rossi. The big step, a revised chassis and engine, will have to wait until the latter part of the year, after the summer break. But if Rossi is closer to Honda and Yamaha by the time that arrives, his chances of getting back to regular rostrums will be much improved. THE RETURN OF ROSSI Is this the start? MOTOGP >>> LE MANS 24 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: