Picotte and Ducati Make Progress at Daytona

Brent Avis
by Brent Avis
Pascal Picotte is returning to his roots during this week's three-day Dunlop tire test at DaytonaInternational Speedway in preparation for the 61st annual Daytona 200 ByArai on March 10.

Since 1998, Picotte has been wheeling the Harley-Davidson VR 1000, butjust a few weeks ago, he was tapped to ride the Ducati 998 for HMCRacing. The native of Canada rode a Ducati for three seasons in themid-1990s and is excited about his reunion with the bike. He's alsooptimistic about his chances in the Daytona 200 By Arai, a race hehasn't won in 10 attempts...

"The last time I rode a Ducati here was in 1994 and I won the pole,"Picotte said during a break in the tire test. "I'm really excited aboutit. I know the bike's going to be awesome. I'm proud to representDucati. I'm glad they've given me a chance to get back on top where Ishould be."

Picotte, who'll turn 32 later this month, says this week's Dunlop tiretest is vital as he prepares for next season and the Daytona 200 ByArai. In order to get accustomed to the Ducati, he wants to turn as manylaps as he can on the 3.56-mile road course during the test session.

"Tire testing is definitely important," Picotte said. "For me, it'sgoing to be really important because it's going to be the first time forme on the bike. I'm going to have to get used to the bike and see howit's going to react and do whatever we need to do to make myselfcomfortable on the Ducati."

Not only has Picotte never won the Daytona 200 By Arai, but Ducati hasyet to put a bike atop the podium in North America's most prestigiousmotorcycle race. Picotte is hoping to change that in 2002.

"I'm sure it's really important for them," Picotte said. "Ducati hasn'twon the Daytona 200 yet, but they were really close a few times.Hopefully, I'm going to be the one to give them the opportunity to be ontop of the box."

Picotte, whose best finish in the Daytona 200 By Arai was afourth-place run aboard a Suzuki in 1996, says he and the team will haveto find the right mix in the setup in order to produce a win.

"It definitely takes horsepower around here because it's a really longand fast race track," Picotte said. "But if you have too much horsepowerand you'll spin the tire on the infield. You need to comprise a littlebit in the setup."

Anthony Gobert, aboard a Yamaha, turned one of the fastest laps duringTuesday's session with a 1:50.097. Picotte wasn't too far behind with alap of 1:50.274.

The Dunlop tire test will conclude on Wednesday at the Speedway and isfree to the public with access to a section of the Oldfield Grandstandthrough the lobby of DAYTONA USA.

Lap Times (Tuesday)Nicky Hayden 1:49.946Anthony Gobert 1:50.097Pascal Picotte 1:50.274Mat Mladin 1:50.721Eric Bostrom 1:51.100Kurtis Roberts 1:51.228Aaron Yates 1:52.633Miguel Duhamel 1:52.957
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