The MotoGP world got its first look at Valentino Rossi in his Ducati Marlboro leathers after he and teammate Nicky Hayden were presented to the press corps at the annual Wrooom Press Ski Meeting at Madonna di Campiglio in Trento, Italy on Tuesday 11th January.
Rossi, who has amassed an amazing nine world championship titles including six MotoGP championships received a rapturous applause as did 2006 MotoGP champ Hayden when they both appeared.
Both Rossi and Hayden spoke at the press conference on a number of topics including their impressions of the new Ducati Desmosedici GP11.
While the assembled media listened intently on what both riders had to say about the bike, the big question was if Rossi would be 100% fit for the first race of the season in Qatar on 20th March.
"Honestly, I had hoped to be a little better by this time," said Rossi who admitted that it is a race against the clock to get back to full fitness after undergoing surgery on his shoulder before Christmas - Rossi injured his shoulder in a motocross accident early into the 2010 season.
Speaking about the first test in Sepang, Malaysia scheduled for 1st, 2nd and 3rd of February Rossi said, "I won't be able to be in top form for the first test in Malaysia, because it will be impossible to regain full strength, but I hope to be able to have a good seating position.
"My recovery is exactly on schedule, but it's long: we're working hard to at least recover mobility in my shoulder, which I'll need to ride the bike well and to be able to fit behind the windscreen," the Italian added.
Meanwhile Nicky Hayden, who enters his third year with the Italian manufacturer, said that he is confident he can build on his progress that was made last year.
"This my third year with Ducati. The start was a little bit difficult, but it's gotten better and better since I've been on this team and on this bike. We've grown a lot, the bike has improved, and my relationship with the team has improved.
"We made a big step from the first year to the second, and I'd like to do the same this year. We know we have a good bike. We've made a couple of little tweaks for next year by adding some staff and a few engineers to help me. I have a strong team around me," continued the American.
This will be Hayden's second time partnering Rossi when he first rode alongside the Italian with Repsol Honda in 2003. "I know being teammates with Rossi won't be easy, but I really don't get too caught up in that. I focus on my job, and that's why I think it'll work with us. I'm looking forward to having Valentino's information and feedback."
Hayden added. "I think it'll be fun. I know our team; the motivation is really high, and the excitement with the fans in Italy is high as well. I can't imagine what the atmosphere will be like when get to Mugello."
While speaking about his fitness, Rossi said that his top priority is to make the Desmosedici GP11 easier to ride. "Obviously, it would've been better to be in shape now, because we've got a lot of work to do and not much time to do it: three tests before the championship to make the Desmosedici not only very fast-it already is-but also a little easier to ride.
"We'll have to meet each other halfway: make the bike like I like, and as for me, adapt my riding style a little to try and make the most of the bike," added Rossi.
Before ending the press conference 'The Doctor' remained confident that he would be ready for the first race of 2011 at the Losail circuit in Qatar. "The doctors assured me that the shoulder will return to 100% in a few months. It will be an emotional challenge; it will be difficult, but I'm happy because there's a lot of extra motivation. They're very excited at Ducati; they believe in me, and we'll do our best!"
Wrooom continued today (Wednesday 12th January) where the Ducati GP11 was unveiled to the world and was followed by a press conference with Claudio Domenicali, General Director of Ducati Motor Holding, and Filippo Preziosi, General Director and Technical Director of Ducati Corse.
"The 2011 season opens a sort of third phase for our MotoGP project," said Domenicali. "The first was with Loris Capirossi, who in just six races took the Desmosedici to its first win. The second brought the world championship crown, thanks to Casey Stoner, in 2007. The big news for 2011, which opens a third phase, is the arrival of Valentino Rossi on the team."
Besides its stunning look, the Desmosedici GP11 shown today "represents the initial level from which we plan to evolve. The principal characteristics are the evolution of the motor and of the throttle body thought to obtain, fundamentally, a flatter and more usable power curve." Filippo Preziosi also commented on the new aerodynamics of the chassis "with the goal of improving top speed, reducing consumption, and also reducing front lift as much as possible."