Valentino Rossi has described Ducati’s qualifying speed at the Sepang test as “incredible” while his fears over race pace are subdued despite hunting Yamaha gains.
The nine-time world champion marvelled at the all-Ducati top four led by Danilo Petrucci who set a new unofficial lap record at Sepang of 1m 58.239s to lay down a marker to its MotoGP rivals.
Rossi, who ended the final day at the Malaysian test 10th fastest almost a full second slower than Petrucci’s timesheet-topper, says Ducati has retained an impressive performance gap over a single lap time attack but feels progress is being made by Yamaha in its race pace.
“In the time attack, the Ducati were incredible,” Rossi said. “Also we don’t have Marquez beceause of his shoulder. So in the hot lap we suffered.
“But about the pace looks like we are a bit closer. But I’m quite worried still, if we race tomorrow I think that we would suffer because we have something else to improve.
“As the first test it’s not so bad. Qatar is in ten days so I don’t think for Qatar we can get something new. But it is another track, another temperature, so it will be interesting to understand.”
A local curry with @motomatters, @pecinogp and @Scherazade02 to finish the Sepang test. Lots of discussion about lap times beyond one fast lap. Pace shown by Marquez on day three was a surprise. Race lap record is a 2m 0.6s.#SepangTest #MotoGP pic.twitter.com/0hvhUxj1bO
— Peter McLaren (@McLarenMotoGP) February 8, 2019
Having been given confidence in Yamaha’s direction after being “a bit lost” for the past two years, Rossi says focus remains on improving the Japanese manufacturer’s acceleration and power delivery ahead of the 2019 season when comparing his pace to Yamaha’s rivals.
“We work a bit, some things we improve, but is one part where we have to work is the engine character in acceleration is an area where I think we still suffer,” he said.
“We expected a lot, unfortunately [it] didn’t bring us what we need. It’s the first test, we improve some things, but we have a lot of work to do because the gap was quite big.”