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Matt Roberts' MotoGP column

Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden on their 2011 bikes
Rossi and Hayden show off their 2011 Ducati livery and bikes

By Matt Roberts
BBC MotoGP reporter, Madonna di Campiglio

The post-holiday peace in Madonna di Campiglio was shattered this week as the Ducati MotoGP and Ferrari F1 teams roared into town for their traditional pre-season launch.

The intrigue of seeing national hero Valentino Rossi in the iconic colours of Ducati has brought thousands of fans to the Italian ski resort, where the all-new Desmosedici GP11 was revealed in fittingly flamboyant fashion on Wednesday morning.

A helicopter thundered up the mountainside, a large red box swinging beneath, carrying the fruit of several months work back in Bologna.

At the top, at a secret location inaccessible to public or press, its contents were revealed as Rossi and Nicky Hayden pulled the covers off their radically modified machines, resplendent in brand new paint jobs drawn up by the Italian's famed helmet designer Aldo Drudi.

It was no surprise that Drudi had taken his trusty yellow highlighter to Rossi's bike although the shade of red raised a few eyebrows, with Ducati going back to the lighter, almost orange colour with which they debuted in MotoGP back in 2003.

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At first glance it is clear that the aerodynamics of the garish new fairing have been heavily modified, which has been done to create less drag and improve fuel efficiency, as well as reducing wheelies.

Also aimed at keeping the front wheel grounded in fast corners, the GP11 features a developed and stylised carbon version of the front 'winglets' that the GP10 crudely sprouted midway through last season.

Underneath the fairing there have been major changes to the engine management system, aimed at creating a flatter and more predictable power band. The GP11 is held together by an entirely new carbon frame, with modified flex that should make the bike more stable under braking.

Suspension manufacturers Oehlins are also due to chip in with a new front fork, incorporating the new hydraulic system from the 48mm fork they introduced last year into the preferred, older 42mm version.

The updates not only underline Ducati's commitment to providing Rossi with a competitive package this season even though, in theory, this is the last season of 800cc racing before MotoGP switches back to a maximum capacity of 1000cc in 2012.

They are also a hint that the GP12, the design of which is already complete, may not exploit the full capacity allowance.

The colours may have changed but Rossi's fans can rest assured that his refusal to accept defeat remains intact

"Bigger is not always beautiful," smiled Ducati general director Filippo Preziosi when asked about the displacement of the new machine.

The GP11 bikes will be on track for the first time at Jerez on 17 January, as team manager Vitto Guareschi reverts to his role as test rider for a three day shakedown alongside Franco Battaini, before being flown in more conventional fashion to Sepang, Malaysia, for the first official test of 2011 on 1 February.

While Hayden expects to be fully fit for the test despite minor surgery on his wrist for carpal tunnel syndrome, Rossi has been told he may be riding in severe discomfort until as late as May.

Damage to his right shoulder proved to be worse than first thought, and his surgeon explained that five to six months would be the recovery time needed for the tendons to correctly fuse with the bone.

"I have to say as far as the shoulder is concerned, there's still a lot to do," said Rossi.

Ferrari F1 driver Felipe Massa poses on Rossi's Ducati
F1 driver Felipe Massa gets to grips with Rossi's new bike

"Everything is going well but it's a race for me to get in shape before the first test in February. It's not going to be easy for me. Usually you need five or six months to be perfectly fit at 100% and to have also the right strength.

"What I've seen, and this was explained to me also before, is that when you have a broken bone a lot can change in the times of recovery and as a rider, we're good, we're courageous and we're experts in accidents and we can usually recover slightly faster in going back to a bike from a fracture.

"But unfortunately when you have to suture a tendon you cannot improve too quickly. You have to adjust yourself to the normal time for recovery. I hope to be in shape for the first race on 20 March at 100% but it could be more April or May."

Currently he is unable shake hands properly or even lift his arm above his head but that didn't stop him sneaking out for a few incognito runs on his snowboard yesterday afternoon.

The colours may have changed but Rossi's fans can rest assured that his refusal to accept defeat remains intact.

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Rossi hopeful of being fully fit for testing



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see also
Hayden enjoying working with Rossi
11 Jan 11 |  MotoGP
Rossi admits struggle for fitness
11 Jan 11 |  MotoGP
Matt Roberts' MotoGP column
12 Nov 10 |  MotoGP
Rossi on life with Yamaha
06 Nov 10 |  MotoGP
Rossi tests Ducati for first time
09 Nov 10 |  MotoGP
Lorenzo ends season with victory
07 Nov 10 |  MotoGP


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