Valentino Rossi - Photo Credit: Ducati

Valentino Rossi - Photo Credit: Ducati

Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden are optimistic ahead of this weekend's Grand Prix of Aragon, believing they can close the gap on the front of the field. The Ducati team enjoyed their best race of 2010 at this circuit, finishing first and third, albeit with Casey Stoner on board the winning bike.

Rossi produced one of his strongest performances of the year last time out at Misano, battling for fifth during much of the race, and given Ducati's form 12 months ago, is hopeful of challenging the riders in front once again.

“Last year at Aragon was the best race of the year for Ducati, so we approach this round with our expectations a little higher than usual. In addition, after the difficult practice sessions at Misano, we found a good setup in the end and I had a better feeling with the bike and managed to ride it better in the race, especially in the early laps. Now we'll try to combine the two things – the track that seems to work well with the Desmosedici and the good setup work – in order to find the same feeling on Sunday.”

Hayden had a miserable time at Misano, failing to finish for the fourth visit in succession, but expects the Aragon circuit to prove more suitable for the GP11.1.

“It's nice to go back to Aragon, which I like. We haven't been there a lot, so it's still new and fun. Last year, it was clearly our best weekend of the season, and in theory, it should suit me and our bike a little bit this time as well. The track was brand-new then, and it was grippy and completely smooth, so we'll see how well it's held up. It has a lot of ups and downs, and quite a few corners with open exits, which should be good for us. I'm 100% okay from my crash at Misano, so no excuses there. Hopefully we can catch a little break and have a good weekend at Aragon.”

By contrast, Team Manager Vittoriano Guareschi has played down expectations ahead of the weekend, stressing that the team's focus is on long-term progress.

“We have some great memories of Aragon from last year, so we're happy to return. Every season has its own story though, and we're obviously currently working not only for this weekend but also beyond. Our riders and team are completely focused on the goal, and they're giving us a collaborative working group that I think is extremely important. At Aragon, we expect to continue gathering data and information on the Desmosedici and to speed up the setup work during the practice sessions.”

The Gran Premio de Aragón weekend gets underway with Free Practice 1 at 9:10am on Friday and The Checkered Flag will have full coverage throughout the weekend.