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MotoGP paddock regroups with renewed spirit at Welkom

MotoGP paddock regroups with renewed spirit at Welkom

MotoGP paddock regroups with renewed spirit at Welkom

After three weeks of anxiety and despair since the tragic crash which eventually took the life of Daijiro Kato, the globetrotting MotoGP paddock regrouped at the Phakisa Freeway in Welkom, South Africa, today amid blazing sunshine and rising spirits. The pain of Kato´s tragedy at the first round of the 2003 season is still fresh amongst the riders, teams and press but their mood has been lightened by the excited anticipation of a potentially spectacular Arnette Africa´s Grand Prix.

Uncharacteristically, the one man without a smile on his face today was Valentino Rossi, who complained of a high temperature and cold symptoms on his arrival at Johannesburg Airport this morning. Rossi spent the afternoon at the Clinica Mobile, with a fever of around 39º, but is expected to be fit as he attempts to exact revenge on former team-mate Tohru Ukawa, who beat the World Champion in a thrilling last lap finale one year ago. On that occasion the pair were unchallenged aboard the RC211V, but the return of Max Biaggi on a Honda and the emergence of the Ducati Desmosedici are just two of the factors set to add further passion to the race this weekend.

Alex Barros also checked in to update the championship´s medical staff on the leg fracture, bruising and stretched cruciate knee ligaments he sustained in Japan. The Brazilian has benefited from the extra week between races and was happy with his recovery. ´I have been back in Brazil working with the best physio in the country, who also works for the national football team - he knows a thing or two about knees!´ joked Barros. ´I have worked for 8 hours every day and I would say the muscle around my knee is back to about 90% strength. I am not totally fit because I have also had problems with my calf, but I am now walking without crutches and I will be okay for the race.´

There was further good news from Doctor Costa and his staff, who reported that Barros´ Yamaha colleague Marco Melandri has been making remarkable progress back in Italy after also injuring his leg at Suzuka. It is thought the 250cc World Champion, who is replaced this weekend by Norick Abe, will be back to 99% fitness for the Jerez race in two weeks´ time.
The pre-event promotional activity, which usually takes place on the Thursday before a Grand Prix, was cancelled on this occasion out of respect for Kato, who was buried in a private funeral ceremony in Tokyo two days ago and has not been replaced by the Telefonica MoviStar Honda Gresini team for this weekend. The riders took the opportunity to hold various discussions about track safety precautions and representation, and held a joint meeting late in the afternoon before their rivalry resumes on the track tomorrow morning.

MotoGP, 2003, Arnette Africa's Grand Prix

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