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Aprilia and Honda rivals preparing for epic 250 battle

Aprilia and Honda rivals preparing for epic 250 battle

Aprilia and Honda rivals preparing for epic 250 battle

With just a month to go until the start of the 250cc World Championship, the focus is beginning to close in on the factory battle which is expected to ensue between Honda and Aprilia. With the departure of current champion, Daijiro Katoh, to the new MotoGP class, a host of young riders are looking to stake their claim to the quarter-litre throne. Katoh's former 250 team-mate Emilio Alzamora is joined in the Honda factory stable by Roberto Rolfo, Privateer of the Year last time around, while the Aprilia assault will be led by Italian prodigy Marco Melandri, and the form rider of the pre-season thus far, Fonsi Nieto.

The next round of IRTA tests, (beginning in Catalunya on March 9), are now looming large, and both the Japanese and Italian factories are preparing to test their mettle again in the search for vital set-up improvements. After commanding displays in both IRTA tests to date in Valencia and Estoril, Aprilia starlet Fonsi Nieto is hoping to continue his good form. 'I'm very happy with the pre-season so far because we are trying a lot of things, and little by little I'm getting the bike to my style. I'm riding like I want to, and the lap times are coming quite easily', stated the popular Spaniard.

Meanwhile, fellow Aprilia rider and championship favourite, Marco Melandri, is still making his way back to full fitness following a close season shoulder injury. However, the Italian is just beginning to rediscover something like his best form after notching the category's quickest lap in Estoril. 'I'm very happy because my feeling with the bike is already quite good, and my shoulder is now not so bad. I still need more physical power, but I think I'll be able to find it in one month and I should be OK for the first GP in Suzuka.'

Over at Honda, official factory team-mates Alzamora and Rolfo are aiming to follow in the footsteps of the now departed Katoh, by ensuring that the quarter-litre title remains property of the Japanese manufacturer. 'Obviously pre-season testing is an important part of our job as we have to make sure the bike is ready when the competition begins,' said former 125 champion Alzamora. 'Our main rivals will be Aprilia with Fonsi, Melandri, Locatelli and Toni Elias, without doubt it's going to be a very competitive championship this year.'

Rolfo is delighted to have secured a Honda factory bike this term, but the 21 year-old Italian is aware of the extra expectation that his new ride brings. 'For sure riding a factory bike is really different from riding a standard one, because there will be more pressure on me and I will get a different perspective of the championship.' However 'Roby' remains confident he can maintain and even improve on his excellent form of last season, 'Last year I had a really good year on a kit bike, and so on a factory bike I think we really can be fighting for the championship.'

250cc, 2001

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