Will Edwards Win the 2001 World Superbike Championship?

World Superbike champion Colin Edwards will be defending his title at Valencia in Spain on Sunday.

The 27-year-old American won six races on his wayto the 2000 championship crown, with Honda's new, 1000cc V-twinSP-1 machine.

"I think we proved mid-season that 2000 was a development yearfor the new machine but it's a sign of Honda's ability that we bounced back from a troubled couple of rounds to win the championship," saidEdwards.....

Last year Edwards placed fifth and fourth places at the 2.95-mile (4.750km) Valencia circuit, so in his fourth season with the Castrol Honda team, he'd like to come out on top.

"Testing at Valencia has always gone well but the races therelast year were disappointing," continues Edwards. "I'm confident I can win on Sunday. Valencia is a technical circuit and we know we have to have the set-up of the machine and the Michelin tyres working well, that¹s what we aim to do."

Also appearing at the World Superbike at Valencia is Edwards' newteam-mate, Tady Okada. The Japanese rider has switched from 500cc grands prix and has proven in pre-season testing that he has the ability and experience to challenge for the 2001 championship.

"Ideally I would have liked a little more testing but we've still got two days at Valencia before I go into the races," admits Okada."I've got a very good team around me and I know I will be in with a strong chance of success by the time I¹m sat on the startline on Sunday."

This year's World Superbike season should prove to be one of the most competive for the pair who are facing other great teams.

Troy Corser, on the Aprilia, will be paired with another ex-GP rider,Regis Laconi, who is also a former 500cc GP race winner at Valencia.The Ducati trio of Michelin-shod Troy Bayliss and Ruben Xaus andDunlop-shod Ben Bostrom will also be competing for the title.

Suzuki's Pier-Francesco Chili will be teamed up with newcomer Stephane Chambon, who won the Supersport world title in 1999. Juan Borja willbe hoping for success after a winter switch to Yamaha for 2001.

Kawasaki has kept the same two superbike riders, Akira Yanagawa andGregorio Lavilla, and will have reigning Japanese superbikechampion Hitoyasu Izutsu on board for at least seven of the 13 rounds this year.

The British GSE Ducati squad is expected to be be in top place over a host of private teams, with last year's British superbike champion Neil Hodgson and 20-year-old James Toseland.

Pere Riba's team-mate in the Dutch team is Fabien Foret, and theBelgian BKM Honda team will run Australian Kevin Curtain and Italian Ivan Goi. The German Alpha Technik team of German Markus Barth andAdam Fergusson has already suffered a setback with Fergusson ruled out of the Valencia round due to a cracked pelvis, sustained in a test session crash.

Fergusson is expected to return for the second round on April 22at Phillip Island, Australia but is replaced at Valencia by fellowAustralian Alex Gobert. The Castrol Honda team will field one rider in World Supersport, 18-year-old Australian Chris Vermeulen.

Vermeulen rode three races for Castrol Honda at the end of 2000,finishing sixth in Holland, crashing at the first corner in Germany and finishing 10th at the final Brands Hatch, UK round."I'm just raring to get going,said Vermeulen. "It seems to have been along winter and I can¹t wait for Valencia. The new Honda is a strongmachine, faster than last year and Michelin have definitely put some hard work in with the new Pilot tires."

The World Supersport championship is once again set to provideincredibly close race action with the majority of the top 20 riders all believing they can clinch the 2001 title.

Kawasaki returns with its 2000 line-up of Scotsman Iain MacPherson, the Valencia lap record holder, and young Australian Andrew Pitt,Suzuki has signed another promising Australian in Karl Muggeridge while the team's superbike rider of last year. Katsuaki Fujiwara moves to the supersport class for 2001.

Yamaha has last year's championship runner-up Paolo Casoli joining them from Ducati and Italian Casoli - the 1997 champion - is partnered by experienced British rider James Whitham. Defending champion Jorg Teuchert remains with Yamaha and is again joined by fellow German and last year's Valencia race winner Christian Kellner, this year in a new team backed by Wilbers Suspension.

The Ducati challenge is expected from hard-riding Italian VittorianoGuareschi, making the move from superbike to supersport and the 1998 season runner-up will start the year as one of the main championshipchallengers.

Valencia data:


2000 qualifying, fastest: Troy Corser, Australia (Aprilia) 1m 36.661s2000 Superpole: Troy Corser, Australia (Aprilia) 1m 36.185s2000 race winners: Troy Corser, Australia (Aprilia) and Noriyuki Haga, Japan (Yamaha)Lap record: Troy Corser, Australia (Aprilia) 1m 36.817s (June2000) Supersport: 2000 pole position:Jorg Teuchert, Germany (Yamaha) 1m 39.725s2000 race winner: Christian Kellner, Germany (Yamaha)Lap record: Iain MacPherson, GB (Kawasaki) 1m 40.199s (June2000) 2001 EVENT SCHEDULE Friday:09.30 - 10.30 World Supersport Free practice10.45 - 11.45 World Superbike Free practice12.00 - 12.30 European Superstock Free practice13.30 - 14.30 World Supersport Qualifying practice14.45 - 15.45 World Superbike Qualifying practice Saturday:08.30 - 09.15 European Superstock Qualifying practice09.30 - 10.30 World Supersport Free practice10.45 - 11.45 World Superbike Qualifying practice12.00 - 12.30 World Sidecar Qualifying practice12.40 - 13.10 Pit walk13.30 - 14.30 World Supersport Qualifying practice14.45 - 15.45 World Superbike Free practice16.00 World Superbike Superpole17.00 - 17.15 World Sidecar Free practice17.30 World Sidecar SuperpoleSunday:08.45 - 09.00 World Sidecar Warm-up09.10 - 09.20 European Superstock Warm-up09.30 - 09.50 World Superbike Warm-up10.00 - 10.20 World Supersport Warm-up10.40 European Superstock Race11.10 - 11.30 Pit walk12.00 World Superbike Race13.20 World Supersport Race15.30 World Superbike Race16.45 World Sidecar Race N.B. Supersport at all rounds except South Africa and USA Superstock at all European events only Sidecar at all rounds except South Africa, Japan and USA
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Danielle Grossman
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