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Rossi, Ukawa and Honda RC211V looking hot in Sepang

Rossi, Ukawa and Honda RC211V looking hot in Sepang

Rossi, Ukawa and Honda RC211V looking hot in Sepang

The four-stroke revolution may be arriving earlier than everyone expected, as tests of Honda's new RC211V in Sepang this weekend seemed to show. The big-bore engines were previously not expected to be able to cut the mustard in the MotoGP class until a few races into the season, but HRC riders Valentino Rossi and Tohru Ukawa have practically put paid to that notion, before the season has begun.

500cc World Champion Rossi was riding the bike for the first time in 2002, but quickly set out to prove that he could lap as fast as his team-mate Ukawa, who had recently destroyed the circuit record at the track by over a second. However Rossi, in typically dominant mood, went one better, by knocking a further second off Ukawa's unofficial time. While the Japanese rider still went quicker than he had before (2'04.29), the Italian set a phenomenal 2'03.61, after completing 67 laps today. The circuit's best official time was set by Loris Capirossi in last year's qualifying, as he took pole in a time 2'05.637, while the race lap record stands at 2'06.618, by Rossi himself.

Nevertheless, it seems Rossi still feels the bike has more to offer, 'This test is good, but we still have some work to do, especially in braking. We have some problems because the bike is difficult to stop, but we are at a good stage.' Both he and Ukawa ran race simulations, the results of which they were pleased with, although Ukawa crashed heavily six laps from the end of his, the bike seemingly more damaged than he.

On the Honda NSR500cc, Daijiro Katoh clocked 2'05.35, improving the time he made at the Sepang track in January. The 250cc World Champion completed 53 laps, 8 less than his old quarter-litre rival and now Honda colleague Tetsuya Harada. Harada admitted that he is still getting used to the change of both category and manufacturer, as he notched up 2'08.72.

The next time the official Honda machines are out to test will be at the Montmelo circuit near Barcelona in March, where both the RC211V and NSR500 will be pitted against all their four-stroke and two-stroke rivals for the MotoGP crown. At those IRTA tests all the manufacturers are scheduled to be present and running their new machines; it promises to be a show not to miss.

500cc, 2001

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