Dovizioso: It’s a long term project
“There is not one big problem and if we fix that we can fight for victory” – Andrea Dovizioso.
New Ducati signing Andrea Dovizioso insists he wasn't surprised by the 'hard situation' and 'big gap' experienced at Sepang.
Winless since Casey Stoner's departure at the end of 2010, Ducati finished the opening 2013 test with a two-second deficit to the leading Honda and Yamaha riders.
The Desmosedici has barely changed over the winter - "it's the same bike as last year with different paint work" to quote Dovizioso's team-mate Nicky Hayden - but the hope had been that parts introduced last season were yet to be fully optimised.
"I prefer to speak about evolution rather than revolution and with this in mind first we want to evaluate the material developed in the second half of last year," newly appointed Ducati Corse general director Bernhard Gobmeier had said in January.
"I think that with this approach we can improve the performance of the bike in the short term, but we are also working on new solutions."
But after three days in Malaysia, the impression given by the factory riders was that there is little performance left in the present parts - and that they would be more than willing to give 'revolution' a try.
Dovizioso finished the test in tenth place, with a best lap 0.167s behind top Ducati rider Hayden and 2.177s from Honda pace setter Dani Pedrosa.
The Italian insisted he knew the size of the task when he signed for Ducati - taking over the seat vacated by countryman Valentino Rossi, who had suffered the worst results of his career with three podiums in two seasons.
"The situation is hard, but everybody knew that before we came here. The gap is big, but we already knew that as well," said Dovizioso, who became Tech 3 Yamaha's most successful rider with six podiums and fourth in the Championship last season.
Dovizioso explained that the biggest problem is actually that the Desmosedici has no single weakness - it is lacking a little in all areas - plus the necessary lead time to produce new parts.
"We focussed on giving feedback to understand the direction for the future. Where I've pushed the engineers a lot this week, is that to fix [this bike] we have to work in every area," he said.
"There is not one big, big problem and if we fix that we can fight for victory.
"In some parts we are not too bad, in other parts we are really bad," Dovizioso continued.
"Like everybody knows, turning and corner entry is not the best. In braking we are quite good. But as I say we have to work everywhere, because if we just fix the turning it is not enough.
"We need some big change… To do this we need time. That is the worst thing about our situation, but we can do nothing about that. I still don't know what we will have to test at Sepang II because it is only two weeks.
"There are some projects at home to improve the bike already underway, but this is the base. We will see when the new parts arrive how different it will be."
Dovizioso, returning to factory status for the first time since leaving Repsol Honda, insisted that he was not overwhelmed by the challenge.
"The bad point is now, at the beginning, because the gap is big and it is difficult for us to fight for important positions as we want to. But now is our moment. We have to work, we have to understand what we need to do.
"I signed for two years for a reason."
Compounding the issue is that Dovizioso believes Ducati's main rivals have never been stronger.
"The level of the competitors is so high. I've never seen Yamaha and Honda both strong like this in the past, with all the strong riders, so to have the possibility to fight with them we need a really good bike."
And will you be having meetings with Ducati between the tests?
"Of course... Maybe more than one!" smiled Dovizioso, winner of the 2009 British MotoGP.
Ducati switched from a carbon fibre to aluminium twin-spar frame, as used by Honda and Yamaha, for the start of last season.
The second Sepang test will be held from February 26-28.