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250cc riders pick up the gauntlet at Catalunya

250cc riders pick up the gauntlet at Catalunya

250cc riders pick up the gauntlet at Catalunya

The 250cc World Championship contenders picked up the gauntlet from their 125cc counterparts at the Catalunya Circuit this afternoon and began their own preparations for the 2004 season. Whilst the factory quarter-litre teams have been locked in lengthy tests throughout most of the winter, for many of the host of privateer teams it was their first contact with both motorcycle and racetrack since the final race of the 2003 season at Valencia, a fact made evident by the clear dominance of official Aprilia rider Randy De Puniet, the form rider over the winter period.

De Puniet and Aprilia newcomer Sebastian Porto sat atop time the sheets for much of a sunny afternoon and remained steadfast until the end of the session, De Puniet clocking 1'47.154 to fend off the attention of his factory team-mate by 0.268 seconds. Honda pair Toni Elias and his former 125cc team-mate Dani Pedrosa, making his first official appearance on a 250cc machine, were also impressive with the third and fourth fastest times respectively although, crucially, Elias was almost a second adrift of the unassailable Frenchman. Pedrosa and fellow rookie Alex De Angelis, riding an Aprilia, proved to be instant hits, with Pedrosa only having completed a few kilometres after his recovery from broken ankles and De Angelis one of the factory riders to have enjoyed several opportunities to familiarise himself with his 2004 machine.

There were further ‘official' debuts throughout what looks to be a highly competitive field, with 250cc Japanese Champion Hiroshi Aoyama taking his bow alongside Pedrosa and former 125cc World Champion Arnaud Vincent continuing his adaptation to the larger cylinder machine. Aoyama enjoyed an encouraging session today, lapping seventh fastest, one place ahead of reigning World Champion Manuel Poggiali, sporting his striking new white and gold livery.

250cc, 2004

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