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MotoGP teams head to Suzuka for key final test

MotoGP teams head to Suzuka for key final test

MotoGP teams head to Suzuka for key final test

The final countdown begins for MotoGP teams, riders and their fans all over the world as the full complement of World Championship contenders descends on the Suzuka Circuit this weekend. All 23 riders registered for the eagerly anticipated 2003 series, plus replacements, wildcards and test riders, will take part in an intense two day test designed to give them the chance to check out radical changes to the 130R curve and the Casio Triangle chicane, as well as offering an opportunity to make crucial final set-up adjustments ahead of the season opener in a week´s time.

Like the MotoGP Test at Catalunya two weeks ago, the Suzuka date is sure to provide a sneak preview in to what lies in store for the new season, and provides another opportunity for Ducati and Yamaha to strike a psychological blow to reigning World Champions Honda. Loris Capirossi set the fastest lap in Spain with his Desmosedici, two tenths quicker than Alex Barros, who demonstrated how far the M1 has come by lapping almost a full second under the pole record set by former Yamaha man Max Biaggi at the Gran Premi Marlboro de Catalunya last season.

Biaggi, of course, is now riding for Honda once more and he returns to the circuit where he made his sensational top class debut with the Japanese factory in 1998. The Italian beat then 500cc World Champion Mick Doohan in the opening race of the season, although he missed out on the title that year and has since struggled to rubber stamp his undoubted quality with the World Championship crown he so craves. This test will be another vital chance for Biaggi to convince the army of HRC representatives sure to be present at their home circuit that he is worthy of top material in the quest to dethrone his huge rival Valentino Rossi.

It is also a key opportunity for the MotoGP newcomers to charter what for many of them is relatively uncharted territory. Aprilia riders Noriyuki Haga and Colin Edwards, who have spent the majority of their careers in the WSB series, which holds its Japanese round at Sugo, have both won the Suzuka 8 hour endurance race (Haga also finished third here as a 500cc wildcard in `98), whilst Honda´s Makoto Tamada finished second in the same event last season. Tamada´s HRC colleague Nicky Hayden has done some private testing at the factory´s home circuit, although for Ducati´s Troy Bayliss and WCM´s Chris Burns it will be a first opportunity to get to grips with the technical and demanding circuit.

MotoGP, 2003

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