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Proton Team KR ready to begin tests in Jerez

Proton Team KR ready to begin tests in Jerez

With the main factory squads already well into their off season programmes and the 4 stroke hype starting to snowball, the last few months for some MotoGP teams have been spent finalising rider negotiations and making desperate machinery adjustments aimed at keeping pace with the new generation of motorcycles. One such outfit is Proton Team KR, who recently confirmed that British rider Jeremy McWilliams will run alongside Nobuatsu Aoki. The squad are now looking forward to beginning their testing programme at the Spanish circuit Jerez this week, where they will be present for a three day test on the 16th, 17th and 18th January.

´The trucks are ready to pull out of the garage and we´re all looking forward to getting down to Jerez,´ said Team Manager Chuck Aksland. ´Both riders will be attending and it will be our first test on Bridgestone tyres. There are lots of variables to be taken into account but the main thing is to let the riders get a feel for the bike and get some laps under their belts.´

Aksland revealed that he was delighted to get McWilliams on board, despite lengthy negotiations which eventually sealed the deal. ´Jeremy was just the sort of rider we were looking for to ride alongside Nobu and naturally we were very satisfied when he eventually signed. Both of our riders are ´hard chargers´, they have both ridden lots of different types of machinery in the past and these qualities are going to be crucial when you consider what we are up against this season.´

Lap times posted by the 4 stroke machines throughout the winter have raised eyebrows and have convinced many onlookers that the 2 stroke era is well and truly over. However, Aksland still thinks that, for the time being at least, the 2 strokes can still have a say in the destination of the MotoGP title. ´Whatever anybody says, the performance of the 4 strokes in race conditions is still based on guess work. There´s no doubt about their horsepower but we won´t really know if they are a better all round package until the lights go out in the first race. Our bikes will have an advantage at many of the tracks because they are 60lb lighter, which will help towards the end of the races, and we believe we will be competitive. We showed last year that we could challenge for high places against the 2 strokes so we are confident we can continue that progress.´

Last year´s Proton KR, ridden by Jurgen vd Goorbergh, was regularly near the front of the pack but mechanical problems often hindered his attempts to stay with the lead riders. So how has the machine been improved to counter the development of the opposition? ´We have made a few modifications to the bike from last year and we will make more as the test programme develops with the input of the riders,´ explained Aksland. ´We have been trying lots of ways to make the machine lighter and have replaced many of the engine components because our weight benefit will be our main advantage in the current formula. We will continue to use the ´big bang´ engine we tried with Jurgen at the end of last season because we found it cut down greatly on vibration and was very reliable.´

500cc, 2001

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