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Cycle News 2004 03 31

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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IN "HE PADDOCK By MICHAEL Scon Gentleman, Start Your Stopwatches ______. UJ lentino Rossi's famous crew chief Jerr y Bu rge ss is no fa n o f mass prese ason tests . You only show your hand , he once said. Better do it in private, and show the others when the green light goes for the first 8 ., V CJ 9 o CJ ~ 5 i£ race . Very true. As in 2002, when he said it. Until the n (and unt il he crashed), Garry McCoy on a tw ostroke 500 had been blitzing the new four-stroke Yamahas of Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa, suggesting the old strokers might be hard to beat. Then Valentino arrived and firmly set the record straight. In spite of showing his hand , he won the title anyway. And last year. Until the big IRTA test at Catalunya, Alex Barros had been setting the pace on his new Yamaha MI. His lap times at earlier Kenny Roberts Jr. ond the SU:luki team hope to show tests had been highly impressive: improveme nt at the upcoming te st s • a nd so do many others. He'd raised the target. Until Rossi showed his hand again at the Catalunya tests. Alex hadn't raised it Will, for exam ple, Suzuk i's curre nt preseason confrontation of the year will high enoug h. upbeat mood survive the weekend? on ly muddy the water. Even if the obvious On the one hand, the tests are only happens, it will be confusing all the same. After three bleak seasons and two tests, and not to be taken too seriously. The obvious is that the Hondas will all without a race win, Suzuki's preseason You neve r know if somebody might be be very fast, with Biaggi, Edwards, Nicky program has given the team renewed bluffing. One the other, they have in hopes after a thorough cleansing program Hayden, Barros, Tamada and 5ete recent years been a reliable indicator of Gibernau all vying to set top time . of the gremlins and glitches afflicting the who would win the cham pionship. As obvio usly, Rossi w ill be among 2003 machine . Although still relat ively I don' t think this will be the case this them . No point in wo ndering if the MI down on power, Kenny Robe rts Jr. has com ing weekend in Catalunya. I don't Yamaha is up to it: Of course the threebeen gaining spe ed everywhere and was be lieve we will be any wiser after the less than a second off the fastest man at time World Champion will turn a fast heavily hyped nonevent. Valencia. This was without teammate time. Why wouldn 't he? Might even be That's an easy prediction, of course, John Hopkins , still nursing two broken fastest. But nobody will know if he can because the forthcom ing season is a ankles but e xpected to be back this weekactually do that over full race distance punter's nightmare. Making it the only end . The two are not exactly best buduntil he does full race distance, in full race easy prediction. (Actually, I know exactly co nditions . dies, and Hoppe r 's presence might have who will win the 2004 MotoGP World It will be surpris ing also if the Ducatis pushed the pace still faste r. This weekend Cha mpionship. I allotted riders' names to will show whet her th e improvement to aren't up to speed, too. The new a computer card game and then played Desmosedici made a shaky sta rt at the bike is as big as they th ink. them all over a full simulated seas on . I Kawasaki might be under slightly less Sepang but had picked up plenty of pace won the cybertoumament, with Colin pressure, in its second year, but the team by Valencia. Edwards second, so it looks as though it'll still needs to prove something that If you're loo king for surprises, it must be me! I have to admit this syste m has not escaped them last season - that they be from elsewhere. In some cases , th is always proved accurate.) The point is th is: No matter who tops test represents a rea l last chance, at least shou ld be taken seriously. As with Suzuki, out on the time sheets, the first formal for opt imism. they don 't have to achieve everything in www.cyclenews.com one weekend, but they have to show se rio usly posit ive signs. Aprilia has to prove first that its fast but flouncy triple can be turned into a racing bike, now that it has taken e ngine deve lopment away from car-people Cosworth: and second that it can do it in time . But the re al last-c hance rs are the WCM team, the last of the privatee rs. If 2003 was a struggle , their home-brewed RI-based "pro totype " disqua lified for much of the seas on, and a pale shadow of a racer for th e latte r part, then 2004 is shap ing up to be even harder. They are not expected to be at the tests and inde e d have not yet co nfirme d their e ntry. Team boss Pete r Clifford was last re ported racketing around the world try ing to get motorcycles - either t he Moriwaki Honda they failed to get last year or the still-born KTM V-four. For them, just surviving would be a resu lt. But at least we know who won't win the World Champio nship. eN CYCLE NEWS • MARCH 31, 2004 99

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