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Norick Abe returns to Suzuka as a wildcard

Norick Abe returns to Suzuka as a wildcard

Norick Abe returns to Suzuka as a wildcard

After eight years at the pinnacle of motorcycle racing, Norick Abe is preparing for a nostalgic return to Suzuka in the same capacity he made his World Championship debut there in 1994, as a wildcard. Since then the Japanese rider has built a reputation in the paddock as a top class rider and a huge personality. However, in 2003 his work will not involve a ninth attempt at the world title but a position more behind the scenes developing the new Yamaha M1. Abe does not have any qualms about his new situation although he does admit that being without a team at one stage left him in somewhat of a crisis. Now he is dedicated to his new commitment and will try as hard as possible in the various testing sessions to prove his professionalism. Here he speaks with enthusiasm regarding his new challenge.

`Yes, it was a bit of a shock,´ he explained. `After eight seasons as part of the World Championships I was anxious and did not know what I was going to do. But when I went out on the track as part of the new Yamaha project I saw quite clearly where my immediate future lies. I am the main rider with this new bike and I want the responsibility of being able to perfect it. I do also aim to compete in some GPs and I think that focussing on both areas will allow me to produce some solid work.´

Yamaha have created the test team fronted by Abe so that their M1 machine can be constantly evolved. The unit is stationed in Italy, sharing the facilities of the Fortuna Yamaha squad. `It´s like we are a competitive team´, affirmed Norick, ` With our own `staff´ and the same kind of work going on in the garage. I feel really good with these guys for company and I appreciate what Yamaha have done´, added the rider who stays a resident in his home of several years in Sitges, near Barcelona.

Abe has participated in the three MotoGP tests during the pre-season, and has tried a whole range of different components, adjustments and prototypes but also did not forget to have a sneaky look at what will be his part-time competition. Abe is already confirmed to race in the Skyy Vodka Grand Prix of Japan. His is the only Japanese rider to have won at the circuit in the premier class on two occasions, once in 1996 and again in 2000: `I want to try and win in Suzuka with the new bike and bring it to the attention of the world; this is my objective. Afterwards I will continue to work with various tests and at some circuits around Europe and, if the previsions are there, to make appearances in another five of six races throughout the year,´ he added.

This season Abe will compete with the number ´17´. `I am really looking forward to having it back. When I raced in motocross and dirt track in the United States I had the number 17. I also kept it in the Japanese Championship and my first season in the World Championships. I prefer it to a lower number and I'm excited about the idea,´ he concluded.

MotoGP, 2003

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