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MotoGP Official Test to lift the lid on 2004 season preparations

MotoGP Official Test to lift the lid on 2004 season preparations

MotoGP Official Test to lift the lid on 2004 season preparations

The MotoGP World Championship 2004 roars into life in Spain this week at the Circuit de Catalunya, host to the MotoGP Official Test for the second consecutive year. The three day session on the 26th, 27th and 28th March is the first time during an intense preseason that all of the MotoGP teams will be on track together and it promises to provide an exciting prologue to the new season as the official timing system clicks into action for the first time this year.

A televised 45 minute session on Sunday with a BMW Z4 on offer for the fastest rider also forms the first round of the BMW Award – MotoGP Best Qualifier 2004, with a top of the range series 645Ci car from the German manufacturer on offer for the overall winner at the end of the season, providing a tantalising incentive for the riders and teams to push the limitations of their machines and give a key insight into what can be expected during one of the most eagerly awaited campaigns in the sport's 55-year history. The ‘Official Practice', takes place at 1405 CET, and will be screened around the world.

This time last year Loris Capirossi sprung the shock of the preseason with a sensational lap time on an early version of the Ducati Desmosedici and drove away in a BMW 330 Cd. Capirossi's surprise form was certainly a sign of things to come, as he took a podium for Ducati on their MotoGP debut at Suzuka and then snatched an historic victory for the Italian factory at Catalunya.

This year the focus will no doubt be on Valentino Rossi, who is finalising preparations for his first campaign with Yamaha after switching from Honda, the dominant factory in MotoGP during recent seasons. The reigning MotoGP World Champion arrives at the Barcelona track fresh on the back of successful tests in Australia and, with rumours and uncertainty traditionally surrounding the authenticity of unofficial lap times throughout the preseason, there will be no hiding place this weekend as he comes face to face with all of the pretenders to his crown for the first time aboard the YZR-M1.

Aside from the exceedingly high quality opposition provided by his former employers at HRC, which includes last season's runner-up Sete Gibernau, eternal rival Max Biaggi, Rookie of the Year Nicky Hayden, multiple-Grand Prix winner Alex Barros, former World Superbike Champion Colin Edwards and Japanese protégé Makoto Tamada, Rossi faces stiff competition from a strong MotoGP field which has taken radical steps to try and take advantage of his Yamaha gamble.

Ducati have produced an all-new version of the Desmosedici, branded the GP4, for their factory team of Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss, whilst leasing the GP3 machines out to a satellite team which will include the reigning World Superbike Champion Neil Hodgson and WSB runner-up Ruben Xaus. Meanwhile, rival factories Suzuki, Kawasaki, Aprilia and Proton have all produced drastically revised versions of their four-stroke prototypes as they aim to compete once more for the biggest prize in motorcycle racing.

Rossi's challengers will get a glimpse of their ultimate goal on Saturday 27th March, when the Italian will be presented with the first ever MotoGP World Championship Trophy in a special ceremony during a break in the track action at 1330 CET. The presentation is one of a number of events taking place during the week, with activities kicking off at the circuit on Tuesday 23rd March with the first day of official testing for the 125cc teams, who will lap throughout the day and again on Wednesday morning.

Wednesday afternoon will see the 250cc riders take to the track, with Thursday also pencilled in for the quarter-litre class before the booming 990cc four-stroke MotoGP machines roar into life on Friday. There will also be plenty of activity away from the track, with several official team presentations planned throughout the weekend.

The second and final Official Test takes place next week at Jerez, with the 125cc teams lapping on the 27-28 March, followed by their 250cc peers on the 29-30 March and the MotoGP contingent on the 31 March - 1 April.

MotoGP, 2004

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