Camel Pramac Pons Honda Says:

John P Burns
by John P Burns
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AFRICAS GRAND PRIX - PHAKISA FREEWAY CIRCUIT WELKOM, 27
APRIL
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The Phakisa Freeway circuit was built in 1999 and staged itsfirst Motorcycle Grand Prix the same year. Camel Pramac Ponsstar Max Biaggi won the first 500cc race at the 4.242 kmcircuit which is situated on the outskirts of Welkom in theFree State Province. The road circuit is surrounded by aNASCAR Speedway style banking and was constructed through aninitiative of the South African Government to bring newemployment and economic growth to the gold fields area.



It's isolated location had meant small crowds until last
year when glorious weather and the four-strokes brought the
fans flocking from the large areas of population such as
Johannesburg. Also its location means the track is often
covered with a layer of sand and grit causing the surface to
be very slippery in the early practice and qualifying
sessions.

Last year Tohru Ukawa inflicted the first defeat of the
season on World Champion Valentino Rossi at the circuit and
so the Camel Pramac Pons team face the 28 lap race with
great confidence - fielding two previous winners at the
circuit where Ukawa also holds the lap record.

Grand Prix Motorcycle racing started in South Africa in 1983
at the Kyalami circuit on the outskirts of Johannesburg. The
last grand prix was held there in 1992, where Max Biaggi won
his first grand prix, before returning at Welkom in 1999.

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TRACK FACTS
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Length: 4.242 kms
Width: 12 metres
Direction: Clockwise
Pole position: Right
Right corners: Nine
Left corners: Five
Longest straight: 413 metres
Constructed: 1999

Lap record:
Tohru Ukawa (Honda) 1m34.834s - 161.030 km/h 21/4/2002

Pole-setting lap 2002:
Valentino Rossi (Honda) 1m34.660s

MotoGP Race winner 2002:
Tohru Ukawa (Honda) 44m39.467s -159.581 km/h
Tohru Ukawa 2002: First
Max Biaggi 2002: Ninth

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COBAS INSIGHT - Antonio Cobas, The Technical Director of
Camel Pramac Pons
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"Welkom provides a very different challenge to the last
round at Suzuka for a variety of reasons. The two main
differences, which cause the teams the biggest problems, are
the altitude of the circuit and the grip of the surface for
the tyres. The altitude certainly reduces the power output,
but this will be our first time at the circuit with the
four-strokes and so it will be interesting to compare the
loss with the two-strokes we have run previously. There are
no long straights and most corners are medium to fast which
actually suited the two-strokes last year and especially
Loris Capirossi, who finished a brilliant third on our NSR
two-stroke Honda.

However, the biggest problem is the grip on the bumpy
surface especially in the early practice and qualifying
sessions. Because of the location of the track and because
it is not used very often, the surface in those early
sessions is very slippery. This is caused by sand and grit
which is blown onto the surface from the surrounding
countryside. The grip does improve with more rubber being
laid down throughout the weekend but it makes tyre choice
and suspension setting very difficult. Tyre choice is
crucial and we are lucky to have Tohru riding for us this
year. He made the correct decision with tyres last year
which enabled him to win the race.

Last year the weather was very hot, which can also make tyre
choice difficult but we go into the race with confidence.
Max rode very well to finish second at Suzuka and of course
he also won the very first 500cc race at Welkom in 1999. So
we face the challenge with two previous winners at the
Welkom circuit which is certain to teach us even more about
the RC211V four-stroke Hondas."


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This service is provided by Camel, title partner of the
Camel Pramac Pons team.
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John P Burns
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