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MotoGP opener draws closer as final IRTA tests commence in Suzuka

MotoGP opener draws closer as final IRTA tests commence in Suzuka

MotoGP opener draws closer as final IRTA tests commence in Suzuka

In south-eastern Japan today the riders of the MotoGP World Championship began the first half of their work at the Suzuka circuit, as they took part in the final test session of the 2003 pre-season before the opening race takes place here next Sunday. All twenty-three of the full MotoGP entries are present at the IRTA Test in the fantastic Suzuka facility, making the final modifications to their bikes before the curtain-raising SKYY VODKA Grand Prix of Japan on April 6th.

The teams had been forced to wait to set up their pit-garages before the weekend began, with the freight flight carrying all of the MotoGP teams´ kit having been delayed and arriving late to Japan. However they had everything in place for what was ultimately an intriguing day´s action, with the Honda machines looking strong at their home circuit, alongside more impressive performances from Alex Barros on the Yamaha and Loris Capirossi on the new Ducati Desmosedici.

Winner of the first-ever MotoGP race here last year, albeit under rain conditions, Valentino Rossi has once again set off at a scorching pace at the technically-focused track, setting regularly fast times and leading the timing sheets practically all day. Behind Rossi was the man who proved so successful against the Italian at the end of last year, Alex Barros. His late burst of laps on the Yamaha M1, which mounted a test tail-fairing for the first time today, bumped him up the order from eighth to second in the final minutes.

$$$On their tail was Max Biaggi, who rides a Honda at the track for the first time since he won his debut race in the premier class of Grand Prix racing back in 1998. As if the battle which is sure to take place next weekend between these three riders isn´t mouth-watering enough, thrown in is the challenge of Daijiro Kato, fourth-fastest today and keen to take his maiden MotoGP win in front of an adoring local crowd. With Loris Capirossi (fifth) riding the wheels off the Ducati in its debut at Suzuka, and sixth-placed Sete Gibernau eager to prove himself to his new team, the anticipation before the season opener gets more unbearable by the day.

Several riders had problems getting used to the new lay-out of the Casio Triangle, the final corner of the circuit, with modifications meaning that braking points are different to previous years. Alex Barros, who has raced here many times since he first came in 1989, was just one of those seen to go straight across the new chicane section, which has been slowed up considerably for safety reasons.

$$$Meanwhile the Moriwaki Racing team also made its public debut in front of a decent crowd at the circuit. Their rider, Tamaki Serizawa has only previously had three hours on board their MD211VF prototype MotoGP bike, which boasts the powerful Honda V5 engine supported by a unique chassis fabricated at the team´s engineering headquarters in Suzuka itself. Serizawa was under four seconds off Rossi´s best time of 2´05.105, which cannot be compared to last year´s records due to the remodelling the circuit has undergone since then.

Testing at the Suzuka circuit will come to an end tomorrow for the MotoGP class, when the teams will begin the final countdown to qualifying which commences on Friday.

MotoGP IRTA Test official results, Day One
1. Valentino Rossi ITA (Honda) 2´05.080
2. Alex Barros BRA (Yamaha) 2´05.250
3. Max Biaggi ITA (Honda) 2´05.293
4. Daijiro Kato JPN (Honda) 2´05.397
5. Loris Capirossi ITA (Ducati) 2´05.529
6. Sete Gibernau ESP (Honda) 2´05.847
7. Tohru Ukawa JPN (Honda) 2´06.383
8. Nicky Hayden USA (Honda) 2´06.704
9. Kenny Roberts USA (Suzuki) 2´06.764
10. Norick Abe JPN (Yamaha) 2´06.81

MotoGP, 2003

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