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After a winter of hard graft ‘JB' positive for 2004 season

After a winter of hard graft ‘JB' positive for 2004 season

After a winter of hard graft ‘JB' positive for 2004 season

Moving to Yamaha after years of collaboration with Honda at the highest level would seem to be taking the idea of a new challenge beyond comprehension. However as the 2004 season approaches, it looks as though the decision of Valentino Rossi's crew chief Jeremy Burgess to accompany the MotoGP World Champion in his transfer from a Japanese manufacturing giant to one of its biggest rivals is proving to be a success. With the fastest times in both of the recent MotoGP official test sessions, the Yamaha-Rossi combination has surprised many people with its much-improved performances in such a short space of time, and is suddenly being touted as the top title-challenger.

"We've been working on the bike for nine weeks, and they have been nine weeks of very hard work and good progress. Yamaha have been terrific bringing the stuff forward, to the point that we've reached now," remarked the Australian - known as ‘JB' or ‘Jerry' to Rossi and the team.

Many are pondering how the M1 has been transformed from a bike which only took one podium finish last year, to one which many expect to take victories in 2004. Burgess is in no doubt that the input of Rossi is the key, "There's been a lot said about the chassis and engine changes, but I think it's the combination of experience both from Valentino and the Yamaha engineers, it's a good marriage. I think the past bike was competent, and I think that any top rider could steer this ship. Valentino is the top of the top though, but let's not forget how far Loris and Troy brought the Ducati last year in a short space of time. You need good riders with good GP and racing experience".

One thing highlighted by riders who have been on board the M1 in the two previous years was the problems with finding a base set-up which could be used at every circuit. Burgess now feels this is s problem solved, "We now seem to be able to get the bike set-up quickly and effectively, which will only help throughout the year. It's obvious the bike is working like that. At Catalunya we had problems at the start but quickly it changed – we can make a bike in a short space of time, and that's good enough".

Can Rossi win on the Yamaha? That's the question on everybody's lips at the moment, but the sardonic Aussie remains tight-lipped, even after the past week's performances, "South Africa is the big push, that's the important one, we must be good there. Setting the fastest time in the official tests doesn't really mean much. To the others looking at us maybe it means a little more, and sows a bit of doubt there. In the pre-season some other teams were maybe saying a little bit more about their aspirations than it is realistically possible to assume. At the first race there will be 22 riders out there who believe they can win the World Championship. If they don't, then they shouldn't be there, so everyone will be putting in the effort, and as every year, the points will be given out to the best as usual. At the end of the year, the best will win".

MotoGP, 2004

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