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Edwards makes waves at Phillip Island

Edwards makes waves at Phillip Island

Edwards makes waves at Phillip Island

Following on from extensive test sessions at the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia last week a squadron of MotoGP teams descended on Phillip Island in Australia on Tuesday. Factory and privateer teams from Honda, Yamaha, Ducati and Aprilia have all migrated south of the equator for three more days of intense development work which began in ideal conditions today, with an ambient temperature of 23ºC and track temperatures of 41º moderated by a cool and stiff breeze, providing a perfect contrast to the heat and humidity of Sepang.

Honda rider Colin Edwards continued the good form he had demonstrated in Malaysia with the fastest time of the day, clocking an unofficial best lap of 1'31.06 – just one second off last year's pole time set by Valentino Rossi - despite never having ridden the RC211V at the Australian circuit before. The ‘Texan Tornado' gave credit to his team, led by chief mechanic Fabrizio Cecchini, for his early progress.

"The bike is feeling good and every time I go out I learn more and go faster," commented Edwards, who contested his rookie season in MotoGP last year with Aprilia. "I think I am getting pretty competent with the bike now. The Aprilia was a bit of a handful here but with the Honda we've been able to get an instant set-up thanks to Fabrizio, who used the data gathered here in the past by Sete (Gibernau) and Valentino (Rossi). I was riding well within my limits and I think there is a lot more time to come off this."

Edwards' team-mate Gibernau was second fastest on the unofficial time sheets today ahead of Italian rivals Rossi and Max Biaggi, who both set an identical lap time. Yamaha rider Rossi continued working with one of the new engine specs he first tested at Sepang and spent much of the day trying to establish front-end stability on the M1 which, as a reference, had a highest grid position of seventh at last year's Grand Prix, when Marco Melandri qualified in a time of 1'31.227.

Melandri crashed out of that race when fighting for the lead and is still recovering from the operation to repair the shoulder injury he sustained as a consequence, but he reported good progress today. The Italian youngster lapped only on used tyres as he tried to string together a series of laps to build up his stamina and endurance, managing ten laps at a time with a short rest in between.

Also struggling with injury today was British rider Jeremy McWilliams, who underwent x-rays during the weekend which confirmed a broken rib sustained in a crash on the second day at Sepang. "This track is more flowing than Sepang so I am at least able to ride the bike," commented McWilliams, who set a then pole record riding the two-stroke Proton KR3 at this circuit in 2002. "Occasionally the agony gets to be a little too much and I have to stop for a rest but we have a lot of work to do so we'll keep on plugging away."

Unofficial lap times:

Colin Edwards (Honda) – 1'31.06
Sete Gibernau (Honda) – 1'31.37
Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) - 1'31.40
Max Biaggi (Honda) – 1'31.40
Nicky Hayden (Honda) – 1'31.67
Alex Barros (Honda) - 1'31.75
Makoto Tamada (Honda) – 1'31.84
Ruben Xaus (Ducati) – 1'32.11
Loris Capirossi (Ducati) – 1'32.16
Carlos Checa (Yamaha) – 1'32.32
Troy Bayliss (Ducati) – 1'32.45
Marco Melandri (Yamaha) – 1'32.58
Neil Hodgson (Ducati) – 1'33.18
Shane Byrne (Aprilia) – 1'33.22
Jeremy McWilliams (Aprilia) – 1'33.66
Norick Abe (Yamaha) – 1'34.40

MotoGP, 2003, Gran Premio Marlboro de la Comunitat Valenciana, Colin Edwards

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