VALENCIA, SPAIN, NOV 9 – The long-awaited debut of Valentino Rossi on the Ducati finally came to pass in Valencia, Spain today, but not at the appointed time.The track opened for the first of two days of testing at 10:00 a.m., but a light rain on a cool morning had dampened the Ricardo Tormo Circuit, putting everything on hold. The photographers, journalists, and hangers-on who lined the pit lane could do nothing but wait. There were tantalizing glimpses of activity inside the Ducati garage, and various Tweets with the most trivial details, but the sound of motorcycles was mostly absent. Finally an all-black Ducati was fired up and readied for the track, but not for Rossi. Instead it was test rider Franco Battaini doing a few exploratory laps on rain tires, then returning to the pits. Battaini went out a second time for a shorter stint, again on the all-black bike. Shortly after Rossi, who’d been standing around in street clothes, was full suited up in black and yellow leathers with an AGV helmet that had a question mark on the top.By now it was nearly 12:30 when Rossi did his traditional crouch, tugged on the right footpeg, rolled down the pit lane, stood up and adjusted his leathers, and began the Rossi Ducati era on a different bike, this one with his number 46 on the nose. Rossi was to test two versions of the big bang engine and one of the screamer. The first stint of 13 laps was on the screamer. Rossi had the now dry, but cool track mostly to himself until he was joined by Loris Capirossi, who was getting his first taste of the Pramac Racing Ducati. The pair were never close on the track and the distinctive sounds of their Desmosedicis signaled their imminent arrivals.The best lap of his first stint was a 1:37.329, which was well of his best race lap of 1:32.970.
Valentino Rossi Rides the Ducati
Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor
Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.