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Rossi ominously quick in warm first day of IRTA Tests in Catalunya
The first big showdown of the 2002 MotoGP World Championship began today as all but one of the entered riders took to the track for the third IRTA test session at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain. As the countdown to the beginning of the season nears its end, these two days represent the first opportunity for onlookers to compare all the competing bikes on track together in similar conditions, and giving teams the chance to gauge their progress in comparison to other squads.
Valentino Rossi, the reigning 500cc World Champion was fastest out of the blocks today, the Italian shooting clear at the top of the timesheets after just a few laps of the Spanish track. He ended the day fastest by 0.643 seconds, after having completed 46 laps of the circuit. The Honda rider had been absent from previous IRTA tests in Valencia and Estoril, but showed that this absence was not detrimental to his bike's performance, as he lowered the existing lap record by just over 0.8 seconds with his time of 1.44.716.
Despite having been easily the fastest rider out, Rossi admitted that he still feels that this is just the start, 'We have been having some problems with traction and with the braking on the RC211V, but we were still able to set a very good time, so I am very happy. We will try to resolve these problems tomorrow and hopefully we can go even faster.'
Trailing in his wake were West Honda Pons riders Loris Capirossi and Alex Barros, proving that modifications made to their NSR500s over the winter seem to have been successful. Capirossi was the fastest rider at the Estoril IRTA session last month, and once again looks as if he will be a serious threat to Rossi. The two Honda riders sandwiched Yamaha's Carlos Checa, who managed to lower his time in a late burst to finish third quickest. His teammate Max Biaggi was sixth, who despite another crash on his M1 machine that temporarily closed the track, has clearly benefited from chassis alterations made before the team's recent outing in Mugello. Rossi's teammate Ukawa finished just in front of him in fifth.
Busiest riders of the day were the Gauloises Yamaha Tech3 pair of Shinya Nakano and Olivier Jacque who clocked up a combined 183 laps on their YZR500 machines. They finished seventh and eleventh fastest respectively, with Abe, Katoh and Roberts sandwiched between them.