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Kato hoping to make home advantage count

Kato hoping to make home advantage count

Kato hoping to make home advantage count

When the MotoGP 2003 season gets underway at Suzuka this weekend, few riders will be able to match the local know-how of Daijiro Kato. The former 250cc World Champion starts his first full season on Honda´s V5 four-stroke having stepped up from the NSR500 midway through last season, but he has already enjoyed four-stroke glory at Suzuka - winning the 2000 and 2002 Suzuka Eight Hour races.

`Suzuka is one of my favourite circuits on the Grand Prix series, and what I love best is seeing all my fans here,´ says Kato. `I attended an autograph session during the test, and I got to meet some of them and that is always nice for a rider. I have won here four times before in the 250cc class and I hope to do so again in MotoGP. My only concern is if it rains here this weekend, as has been forecast. I have not always had the best of results in the wet, and last year here at the Suzuka it was very difficult for me in my first MotoGP race when the rain came. I did however get a lot of laps in the wet in Jerez and some in Sepang, and I ended up feeling very good by the end of those sessions. It is obviously a different story here, and at this very technical circuit it is much harder. For certain I will be hoping for a dry race, but it wouldn´t be the end of the world if it did rain.´

Two of Kato´s victories here have been as a wildcard, and he revealed part of the reason why the local riders often seem to have an advantage over their international rivals. `It´s not so similar to many tracks in Europe. Corner speed is very important at Suzuka because there are many fast and long corners - you don´t ride out of so many of the corners sideways like you do at some other tracks. It´s also a very long circuit, so you have to work hard everywhere, because it´s the kind of track where you gain a little bit everywhere - there´s not one or two corners that make a huge difference to your lap times. My favourite section is the west section, after the hairpin, because it´s faster. I don´t like the esses section so much´.

Sixth quickest at the end of a two day test yesterday, the 26 year old admits he has work to do in the practice sessions if he is to meet his target on Sunday. `The bike is so-so at the moment, I feel I am about seventy percent pleased with the work I have done during the two day test here in Suzuka. Also my time wasn´t very good, I am sure I can go much quicker, but I still need to make some adjustments to my final set-up in order to get there. In the Friday and Saturday qualifying sessions we will be working on fine-tuning the machine and getting it comfortable for me. One of the problems was that I couldn´t quite get used to the new corners at this circuit. I have raced here so many times, both in the Japanese Championship, in MotoGP and also in the Eight Hours race, and I had a rhythm on the track that it is a hard habit to break´.

MotoGP, 2003

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