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Valentino Rossi reflects on the recent Honda test in Sepang

Valentino Rossi reflects on the recent Honda test in Sepang

Valentino Rossi reflects on the recent Honda test in Sepang

Double World Champion Valentino Rossi may have to look over his shoulder a few more times this coming season if the wave of eager anticipation currently floating around the MotoGP tests gives any indication to the possible state of the 2003 championships. With the new Ducati and Aprilia line-ups clocking fast times, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha also working hard, Rossi not only is surrounded by a higher level of competition that hope to restrict a repeat performance of his 2002 11 GP wins but faces a viable threat from inside his own Honda community.

After the last private tests for the manufacturer in Malaysia (that all the Honda teams of the MotoGP series missed the first IRTA sessions at Jerez in order to attend) Rossi had to contend with the rapid pace of former 250 World Champions Daijiro Kato and Max Biaggi. Kato was the fastest rider on both days by less than a second with Biaggi extremely close in third.

Rossi dismissed the notion of any competition in the first session. ´Our main goal was to set the bike up and not go for the best time,´ he said. ´Today was the first day on the new 2003 bike and it went well am happy with the feel of the machine and much of the work we did here at Sepang a month ago testing components has been of good benefit on the new bike.´

$$$ The second outing on Thursday saw the 24 year old Italian shave a full second off his best lap and move to within one tenth of Kato´s timing sheet topper; perhaps feeling the need to prove he was also on the pace. Again the insistence of long term gain was stressed ´The whole point of this session has been to test set-up on the 2003 bike,´ he commented. ´We did some long simulated race runs and are happy with the way things went especially with the way the Michelins worked.´

To be fair Rossi may not have been riding at full fitness which may be a scary sign for his rivals. ´I felt much more comfortable on the bike today. I'm recovering from a little surgery on my butt and yesterday was pretty uncomfortable! Today I was much happier. I can concentrate on riding now, not thinking how much it hurts!´

Rossi will spend the weekend in Malaysia before flying to Australia and Philip Island for more work. As the interest grows with the regularity of the tests occurring and the lap-times pouring off the press releases then the true picture of who may be tearing up the track in Suzuka come early April will be a little clearer. For now it looks like Rossi may have a little bit more to contend with for 2003.

MotoGP, 2003, Valentino Rossi

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