British crowd warm-up for the MotoGP weekend at Day of Champions

Thursday, 10 July 2003

British crowd warm-up for the MotoGP weekend at Day of Champions

The annual charity curtain-raiser to the Cinzano British Grand Prix took place at Donington Park today, with the Day of Champions proving to be bigger and better than ever. Some 10,000 local race fans warmed up for the weekend´s action as they took a rare chance to sample the unique MotoGP paddock atmosphere, getting involved with a hole host of fund-raising events alongside the teams and riders. A ride-in with Colin Edwards, a super-anorak quiz, scooter races, a pit-lane walk, a memorabilia auction and rides with Randy Mamola on the two-seater Ducati Desmosedici were all part of a packed programme of games and activities which raised well in excess of ₤100,000 for the MotoGP charity Riders for Health, which provides crucial two-wheeled transport for the delivery of medical supplies to remote communities in the Third World.

Whilst MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi kept a low profile after entertaining the press and thousands of fans in London on Tuesday and with title challenger Sete Gibernau stuck in Barcelona after his flight was delayed, there were plenty of other stars on show, with reigning World Superbike Champion Edwards particularly enjoying the adulation of the British public. `I have a unique relationship with the British fans, I don´t really know why,´ smiled the MotoGP rookie. `They have given me great support ever since I started racing in World Championships, so this is like coming home for me. I know this track well so hopefully we can continue the progression we are making at Aprilia and get a good result´.

Home rider Jeremy McWilliams was less confident of his prospects, however, revealing that he would be trying to convince team boss Kenny Roberts to race the old Proton KR3 two-stroke instead of their impressive yet embryonic V5 four-stroke. `The V5 has great potential, but we have had two tests since the last race at Assen and we are having serious teething problems,´said the Ulsterman. `I think I can finish in the top ten on the KR3, so I will try and convince Kenny to let me ride it. My stomach is in my mouth at the thought of trying to race the V5 in front of the home fans – I am so nervous!´.

It was a special day for another home hero though, as British MotoGP Legend John Surtees was inducted into the Hall of Fame. `I grew up with motorcycling after the war, when my father showed me how to maintain bikes - and then I began racing them,´ said the 68 year old, who won at total of 38 Grand Prix en route to seven titles in the 350cc and 500cc World Championships from 1956 to 1960. `It was a real education for me and it is nice to be honoured in this way, in a sport which gave me so much. I still enjoy watching MotoGP and I am looking forward to this weekend´.

With 50,000 tickets already sold for the weekend´s action, record crowds are expected to begin flooding through the Donington Park gates when the first free practice sessions get underway on Friday morning.

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