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Yamaha confirm Abe as Barros replacement

Yamaha confirm Abe as Barros replacement

Yamaha confirm Abe as Barros replacement

Yamaha have confirmed their rider line-up in the wake of the news that Alex Barros has signed once more to ride with Honda for 2004. MotoGP stalwart Norick Abe will join Marco Melandri in the Tech 3 squad. The following statement was announced by the factory this evening:

Yamaha will carry out its first test of the 2004 MotoGP season this weekend with a new-look line-up. Spaniard Carlos Checa and his team-mate, MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi, will compete for the Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team, Yamaha's wholly-owned Factory Team. Norick Abe and Marco Melandri will ride for the Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3 Team, the privately-owned French team.

Both teams will be running Factory Yamaha YZR-M1 motorcycles and will be running under the Altadis-Yamaha sponsorship program. Valentino Rossi will ride in the blue of Altadis' leading international Gauloises brand. Team-mate Checa's Yamaha YZR-M1, on the other hand, will sport the red and silver of Altadis' Fortuna, the market leading tobacco brand in Spain, and strongly developing internationally.

Similarly in the Tech 3 team Marco Melandri will ride in Fortuna colours with Norick Abe in Gauloises. The unusual move suits Altadis' marketing strategy with Rossi representing their leading international brand while Checa stays linked to Fortuna for a second year. The Fortuna brand is also present on the Italian market and hence Melandri's 2nd year in Fortuna colours while Norick Abe is important for Gauloises in the Japanese market where the brand was recently re-launched in autumn 2003.

The four Yamaha riders will start their 2004 testing programme with three days at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia from 24 to 26 January. The test will be Valentino Rossi's first on the Yamaha YZR-M1.

This announcement also confirms that Brazilian rider Alex Barros will leave the Altadis-Yamaha set-up despite being halfway through a two-year contract with the Franco-Spanish tobacco group. The breach of his contract with sponsor Altadis is currently being discussed by the parties concerned and a final agreement of terms has yet to be reached.

MotoGP, 2003, Alex Barros

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