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Honda lead rider Tohru Ukawa proclaims, `It will just be about the 4 stroke riders`

Honda lead rider Tohru Ukawa proclaims, `It will just be about the 4 stroke riders`

Honda lead rider Tohru Ukawa proclaims, `It will just be about the 4 stroke riders`

News of Honda's recent test session in Sepang, and the devastating performances recorded by the two four-stroke RC211V riders, has sent out a stark warning message to the rest of the MotoGP paddock. The other teams and manufacturers know that they will have to produce top quality material in order to challenge Honda for the crown Rossi won last year. As the Italian's team-mate and the lucky beneficiary of the second of Honda's 990cc machines, Tohru Ukawa feels that the rest will be hard pushed doing so.

'This machine [Honda RC211V] is so good, the power is just simply fantastic. Valentino is going very fast, and so am I, even if it's a little bit slower than him my lap times are very good,' said a cheery Ukawa, and as if throwing down the gauntlet to the other riders, he added, 'I think that this year it will just be about the four-stroke riders fighting for the Championship,' a bold statement by anyone's standards, coming from one of the favourites for the 2002 MotoGP title.

Despite there still being a great deal of secrecy about the bike's make-up, Ukawa's confidence echoes throughout the whole of the Honda unit, from mechanics to the team's bosses, all of whom are convinced of the RC211V's potential. As if to reinforce the point, Ukawa adds, 'This year is such a good chance for me, and I think our machine will be better than the other manufacturers. It may be that my only rival is Valentino.'

The Chiba-born rider still knows that he has to iron out the errors in order to sustain a challenge for the title, 'My lap times are not so bad, well, it has improved on last time we were here, but I crashed again a couple of times. The last crash was in the race simulation we were doing on the final afternoon, so this obviously isn't so good.'

Ukawa also knows he still has some adaptation to do to the new bike, 'The four-stroke is not easy, the engine 'feeling' is different, there's lots of engine braking and it's heavier. But it is so fast in the straights, and the acceleration is also more controllable, so that's definitely better than a 500, to have a flatter acceleration curve.'

Many pundits have expressed their doubts about the durability and reliability of the new machines over full race distance, but Ukawa deflects this scepticism, 'I've already tried the bike over so many race endurances and I've not felt as tired after them, I think it's actually going to be easier to finish than on a 500.'

The two HRC four-strokes will be missing from the pits at this weekend's IRTA tests beginning on Friday in Valencia, meaning they will line up for the first time against the other machines at what looks like being an electrifying Catalunya IRTA session. With all this confidence behind him, Ukawa admits, 'I'm really looking forward to the challenge at Catalunya now.'

500cc, 2001

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