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The new Proton is a weight off Aoki's shoulders

The new Proton is a weight off Aoki's shoulders

The new Proton is a weight off Aoki's shoulders

Nobuatsu Aoki has expressed his optimism for the 2004 MotoGP World Championship after testing the Proton Team KR's new V5 machine at Valencia last weekend. The Japanese veteran completed several laps on the new version of the 990cc prototype which has yet to be completely updated, before team-mate Kurtis Roberts suffered an unfortunate crash which left only the 2003 version of the bike available to test. However, the shakedown session was enough to give Aoki a good impression of the machine and leave him looking forward to the new season with fresh impetus.

"The 2004 version of the Proton is a radical change," commented Aoki, who is entering his seventh season in Grand Prix's premier-class. "We've got a new chassis which has brought much better feeling. We've also improved weight-wise - they say seven or eight kilos less than the previous one - so that gives me much better feeling and I can go much quicker through the corner, so I'm really positive about it. It should be another two or three kilos lighter still before the first race so I am very excited. We won't be 100% for the first couple of races but we will be trying as hard as possible to get there."

Proton began last season using their antiquated 500cc three-cylinder two-stroke and didn't uncover the V5 four-stroke until the fourth round at Le Mans, before a host of teething problems saw them switch between both bikes for the first half of the season. Aoki wielded just 19 points and finished 21st overall, but says the fact that this year's project is already at an advanced stage will help him be more consistent throughout the year.

"This year we'll be using the four-stroke from the first race," he says. "Last season it was a lot of hard work having to change continually from the two-stroke from the four-stroke but now I can concentrate properly. I can expect to be much more competitive than last year – especially with the new engine. My objective is to be in the points on a regular basis throughout the season."

Aoki is a member of the dwindling Japanese community in MotoGP after the departure of Tohru Ukawa and Nori Haga, making it an even more important campaign in his eyes. "I am going to miss not having as many Japanese riders in the championship, but I am just happy to be a part of Kenny's team and I want to make the most of this opportunity. I will do my best until the very last race of the season," he concluded.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2004

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