World Superbike Preview From Valencia, Spain

Brent Avis
by Brent Avis
The 2001 World Superbike Championship gets underway on Sunday with round1 in Valencia, Spain..

The World Superbike Championship for production-based bikes arrives atthe "Comunidad Valenciana" circuit for the second time. The circuit isa sort of natural 'amphitheatre' and allows spectators a total vision ofthe 4.005 km track. It has nine left-hand curves and five right with astart-finish straight measuring 876 meters...

Here Troy Corser set pole position and took his Aprilia RSV Mille to victory in race 1 for the fourth of his five wins last year.The Australian also set the official circuit lap records here last year:fastest race lap, fastest lap in qualifying and in Superpole. In therecent winter tests Troy and three other riders, Bayliss, Okada andBostrom, all improved on the unofficial record with sub-1m36s times,confirming the astonishing improvement made in this series for what areessentially production-based bikes. On this circuit, which highlightsrider ability, bike handling, as well as track temperature, becomescrucial: here last year the race was held at the end of June and groundtemperature was 34-degrees celcius. In the last few days the temperature has been lowerand the area has been hit by storms.

Regis Laconi, the second factory Aprilia Superbike rider, will be makinghis debut in the World Superbike Championship this weekend. During testshere in February he recorded sixth quickest time overall on a trackwhere he had already tasted victory on a 500 GP bike. Regis quicklymanaged to learn the 'secrets' of the RSV Mille and succeeded inestablishing an excellent feeling with the twin-cylinder four-strokebike.

Less than two weeks ago in official SBK testing on this track, Ben Bostrom(Ducati L&M) set the quickest time, smashing the Superbike lap record, heldbe Troy Corser, by almost one second. His time of 1m35.228s was just95/1000ths of a second away from the outright 500 GP record held by KennyRoberts Jr., and confirmed the incredible level of competitiveness reached byfour-stroke production-based bikes in comparison with two-stroke prototypemachines.

"We set an excellent time, but what is more important is the fact that weconstantly lapped fast. The bike is fantastic and my Dunlops were perfect,"said Ben. "There are some circuits where you immediately establish a specialfeeling and Valencia is one of these. Here in 2000 I obtained my best resultof the season with two second places. On Sunday I want to improve on that."

Troy Bayliss (Ducati Infostrada) also concluded the tests successfully withsecond-quickest time. "These last tests were very important," declared Troy."Now I know the Valencia circuit better and my 996R Factory is ready for thetrack. In the last two weeks I have kept myself in form so as not to lose myconcentration. I can't wait for the championship to start. Everything isready, the bike is fantastic, Michelin has done a superb job this winter andI hope to be able to improve on the third and fourth places I picked up lastyear."

Spain¹s Ruben Xaus makes his first race appearance on a Superbike at hishome circuit. "I love the power of my Ducati and I am really happy to havearrived in Superbike after my experience in Supersport. A learning period isbeginning for me, but with a bike like this it will be difficult to staybehind. This is a great opportunity for me. I know I will have to face up toriders with more experience, but I hope I can soon cause them a fewproblems."

World Superbike champion Colin Edwards begins the defense of his title inSpain this weekend. Edwards, 27, and his new team-mate in the Castrol Honda team, Tady Okada are both confident of success in Sunday's two races of round one.

Edwards says: "I¹m ready to go. We¹ve had some good tests pre-season and nowI just want to get on and start winning races again. The final Brands Hatchround of last year seems a long time ago now and I'm ready for a whole newseason."

"Michelin have worked hard and improved the tires over the winter months andHonda has improved the machine so I'm confident we'll have the right packagewhen we roll out of the garage on Friday morning."

Edwards took six pole positions and eight race wins on his way to the 2000title.

The experienced Okada is equally confident, the Japanese rider comments:"I'm really enjoying my move to superbike. The team is good and it's beeneasy to settle in. I like the machine and would like to leave the openinground with at least two podium finishes."

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