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Nobu Aoki raring to go on return to MotoGP fold

Nobu Aoki raring to go on return to MotoGP fold

Nobu Aoki raring to go on return to MotoGP fold

After a year away from the Grand Prix arena spent as a test rider developing Bridgestone tyres for their MotoGP project, Nobuatsu Aoki returns to big stage of the World Championships aboard the Proton of Kenny Roberts' team. After finishing third in the 500s in 1997, Aoki lost his way in the elite class following a switch to the Suzuki stable, now the Japanese rider is bidding to rediscover that early promise in the inaugural season of the MotoGP category.

The 31 year-old is pleased to be back in competitive racing, and believes the 3 cylinder Proton is capable of making an impact in this season's championship, despite the hype surrounding the arrival of the 4-strokes. 'The bike is good. I'm impressed with the chassis we have, but we are trying to improve on it and we will have a new one ready for (the next round of IRTA tests in) Barcelona. We're looking forward to having the new chassis as I'm sure it will work really well for us.'

Nobuatsu, the eldest of three racing Aoki brothers, ironically makes his return to the top level of Grand Prix racing as one of his brothers, Haruchika, drops down from there to the quarter litre class this term. After his work on the Bridgestone project last year, 'Nobu' is looking forward to the prospect of racing on the new tyres, but is realistic about the work that still needs to be done on his Proton KR bike. 'We are still in development because Bridgestone have been working with Honda until last year, and between a Honda 4 cylinder (NSR500) and a Proton there is a 15kg difference. This means that for the rear tyre there is no problem, but for the front tyre it seems we have to request Bridgestone to fit the Proton bike.'

Thus far, Aoki has been outshone by the pre-season performances of Proton team-mate Jeremy McWilliams. The Briton has been almost a second quicker than his Japanese counterpart at the IRTA tests in both Valencia and Estoril, and Aoki will be hoping to close this gap on the team's next public outing at the IRTA tests in Catalunya which begin on March 9th.

500cc, 2001

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