World Superbike champion Carlos Checa testing the latest version of the Ducati GP12 at Jerez in Spain during a private test session this week.

Ducati is quietly confident it can give Valentino Rossi a more competitive motorcycle this year after the racing legend endured the worst season of his MotoGP career in 2011.

Ducati Corse boss Filippo Preziosi says the Ducati Desmosedici that Rossi and his American team mate Nicky Hayden will race this season is a complete redesign of the new 1000cc bike tested by Rossi in Valencia in a post-season test late last year, which proved to be way off the pace of its rivals.

Though the redesigned bike looks deceptively similar and still sports an aluminum perimeter frame and carbon-fibre swingarm, there are new addditions and the only components that actually remain the same are parts of the front forks and steering components.

Preziosi assured that the rest of the bike is completely redesigned, stating: “Ninety percent of the parts are brand new.”

He continued: “We significantly changed the distribution of weight and the bike dimensions to be in the middle of the adjustment range.”

This suggests that a greater range of adjustments will be able to be made according to rider preference and track conditions.

He also said that with the new chassis, the engine position will be able to be adjusted more, though declined to provide details regarding changes to the V angle (the angle between the two banks of the four cylinders) of the GP12 engine, which Ducati has traditionally run at a larger angle than their competitors using a V-four configuration. Preziosi explained that it usually takes two years - from the initial design to the first race - to have a completely refined race machine “but we are accelerating the process with forced steps. It’s a courageous decision, but not impossible.”

Seven-times World champion Rossi had a season to forget in 2011 with a bike that neither he nor Hayden could get up to speed, and they finished respectively 7th and 8th in the championship, which was won by Honda’s Casey Stoner from Australia. Rossi himself believes the team will be closer to the front than they were in 2011, “but the gap is still big, especially compared to Honda, and we still need to work a lot to fix our problems.”

At 32 years old, Rossi still feels he can be a protagonist among the high level of talent in the current field of riders.

“The situation is normal, there are a lot of strong riders, especially Jorge Lorenzo and Stoner, but I feel confident because I’m motivated and I know if I’m in good condition I will be competitive,” he said.

“You can’t compare different eras. I’m older and come from a previous generation. The new riders are younger and very strong, but when I ride well I’m still very fast and my hunger is the same.”

Rossi, who won his titles with Honda and Yamaha, discounted a possible return to a Japanese bike as unlikely, and plans to stick with Ducati for at least the next three seasons. - Star Motoring