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De Puniet breaks more records as 250 signs off in Jerez

De Puniet breaks more records as 250 signs off in Jerez

De Puniet breaks more records as 250 signs off in Jerez

Randy de Puniet was once again in complete control at the Jerez circuit in southern Spain today. On the second day of official 250cc tests at the Andalusian track, the Aprilia-riding Frenchman continued to churn out fast laps, and like yesterday broke the late Daijiro Kato's 2001 race-lap time. Jerez is one of De Puniet's favourite circuits, demonstrated both by his performance here over the last two days, but also by the fact that he took pole position in the Spanish Grand Prix here last year. Today the Safilo Carrera LCR rider went one step further than all his previous acheivements at Jerez however, as he rode the fastest ever lap of the track on a 250 machine, blasting around the circuit in a time of 1'43.773.

In devastating form throughout the whole winter, De Puniet was rightfully confident about his chances of a tilt at th 250cc title this year, "I'm feeling very comfortable on the bike, we've been working through some new suspension and chassis settings, and I'm riding consistently quick at every circuit so far. This year isn't going to be easy with nine factory riders out there, but I think I can be part of the front group and be fighting for race wins again. I finished fourth last year, but there's no reason why I can't become World Champion by the end of this year."

Unlike the three previous days in Jerez, the region's recent bad weather was not a problem today, with overnight showers only delaying the start of proceedings for about an hour, as the riders waited for the scorching sun to dry out the asphalt completely. The sun remained for the whole day, which helped De Puniet knock more than half a second off his time from day one. Others didn't find it so easy, with no rider able to get within a second of the top time, and only Anthony West showing a considerable step forward.

West, who won his first ever Grand Prix last year at Assen, showed that he will once again be a force to be reckoned with this year, even if he isn't one of those on full factory machine. The Australian hope lapped consistently quick throughout the day, and spent the majority of it just below De Puniet on the timing screens, however the late bursts from the Honda riders pushed him down into sixth spot. Daniel Pedrosa, reigning 125cc World Champion, was second fastest, but had a crash which sent him tumbling head first into the gravel. Luckily he did no damage to his legs, which are still recovering from the crash which kept him out of the last two Grands Prix of 2003. Another rider to crash, albeit twice, was Toni Elias, who in typical fashion dusted himself down to make the third fastest time of the day, but still remained behind his benchmark of yesterday. Roby Rolfo and Hiroshi Aoyama made up the top five.

Meanwhile in the paddock the MotoGP teams have gathered to prepare for their final test of the year, with every squad except Aprilia putting riders out onto the track. The next two days at Jerez represent the last official MotoGP test session of the winter, before the bikes and equipment are air-freighted to South Africa, for round one of the 2004 MotoGP World Championship in Welkom. Forecasts are for mixed weather, and if the session takes place in dry conditions as hoped, it promises to provide another magnificent insight into the exciting season ahead, with everyone still reeling from the brilliant performance of the Yamaha and Valentino Rossi at the first MotoGP Official Test last Sunday.

1.-Randy de Puniet (Aprilia) 1.43´773
2.-Daniel Pedrosa (Honda) 1.44´980
3.-Toni Elías (Honda) 1.45´029
4.-Roberto Rolfo (Honda) 1.45´111
5.-Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda) 1.45´201
6.-Anthony West (Aprilia) 1.45´457
7.-Naoki Matsudo (Yamaha) 1.45´736
8.-Joan Olive (Aprilia) 1.46´005
9.-Eric Bataille (Honda) 1.46´017
10.-Jakub Smrz (Honda) 1.46´058
11.-Franco Battaini (Aprilia) 1.46´145
12.-Silvain Guintoli (Aprilia) 1.46´337
13.-Héctor Faubel (Aprilia) 1.46´359
14.-Gregory Lefort (Aprilia) 1.46´765
15.-Alex Debon (Honda) 1.46´805.

250cc, 2004

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