Sugo Preview: Honda

Calvin Kim
by Calvin Kim
Sugo, Japan - 2002 World Superbike championship round four / 2002 World Supersport championship round four - Sunday April 21

Honda SP-2 rider Colin Edwards is looking to halt the early season dominance of Ducati's Troy Bayliss in Sunday's fourth round of the World Superbike championship at Sugo in Japan.

Edwards believes Sugo will be the turning point in his season after a successful test there with Michelin towards the end of 2001.

"I'm really looking forward to the Sugo round," says Edwards. "We've done just about everything there in the past but win. I've had pole position, set fastest laps and in last October's test beat the lap record. I need toput all that together, along with the new, improved SP-2 performance and win Sunday's races."

Edwards adds: "I know the Japanese wild card riders are always a threat at Sugo but if you want to be world champion you have to be capable of beating anybody and everybody. After the last round in South Africa I just couldn'twait for this Sugo round to arrive."

Edwards trails series leader Bayliss by 45 points but the American, now inhis fifth year with Castrol Honda, believes the Bayliss run of six winsfrom six races is set to come to and end.

"I think even Troy knows that to pull off two wins at Sugo is difficult.With the backing of HRC I'm sure we can start to turn the tide in thechampionship on Sunday," concludes Edwards.

After the disappointment of not starting the races in Kyalami two weeks agodue to technical problems, Mark Heckles is looking to make amends with twopoint-scoring finishes at the 3.74km (2.32-mile) circuit in Japan.

"I expected a few disappointments in my first season in World Superbike andI've learned quickly that racing is never easy," admits Heckles. "I'mhoping we can get something to cheer about from Sunday's races at Sugo."

World Supersport action moves to Sugo and the closely-fought series isexpected to provide another close encounter, the Honda effort is boosted by26-year-old Japanese rider Tatsuya Yamaguchi.

The former HRC Superbike rider joins the Honda UK team, replacing JohnMcGuinness who continues his battle back from illness after being diagnosedwith pneumonia while at Kyalami, South Africa two weeks ago.

Yamaguchi is joined in the team by Australian Karl Muggeridge, looking toimprove on his current 17th place in the 12-round championship.

"We've constantly improved the CBR600 since the start of the season and I'mconfident we will have better engines again for Sugo," reckons Muggeridge.

Opening round race winner Fabien Foret, on the Ten Kate CBR600 Honda, leadsthe Honda charge and is currently third in the championship, just 19 pointsbehind leader and winner of the last two rounds, Andrew Pitt.

"Sugo is always a difficult place to master but we're returning with a lotof experience," says Foret. "We've got the power, the machine set-up andgood Pirelli tyres so I'm confident I can win again."

Sugo data:

2001 Qualifying, fastest: Makoto Tamada (Honda) 1m 28.658s
2001 Superpole: Makoto Tamada (Honda) 1m 28.797s
2001 winner: Makoto Tamada (Honda) x 2
Lap record: Makoto Tamada (Honda) 1m 29.522s (April 2001)

2001 pole position: Paolo Casoli (Yamaha) 1m 32.913s
2001 winner: Paolo Casoli (Yamaha)
Lap record: James Whitham (Yamaha) 1m 33.616s (April 2001)

World Superbike championship points 3/13 rnds:
1 Troy Bayliss, Australia (Ducati) 150
2 Colin Edwards, USA (Castrol Honda) 105
3 Ruben Xaus, Spain (Ducati) 79
4 Ben Bostrom, USA (Ducati) 77
5 Neil Hodgson, GB (Ducati) 69
6 Noriyuki Haga, Japan (Aprilia) 60
7 Hitoyasu Izutsu, Japan (Kawasaki) 47
8 James Toseland, GB (Ducati) 45
9 Chris Walker, GB (Kawasaki) 44
10 Juan Borja, Spain (Ducati) 36

Manufacturers points:
1 Ducati 150
2 Honda 105
3 Aprilia 60
4 Kawasaki 54
5 Suzuki 30

World Supersport championship points 3/12 rnds:
1 Andrew Pitt, Australia (Kawasaki) 61
2 Stephane Chambon, France (Suzuki) 52
3 Fabien Foret, France (Honda) 43
4 Christian Kellner, Germany (Yamaha) 36
5 James Whitham, GB (Yamaha) and Piergiorgio Bontempi, Italy (Ducati) 30
7 Chris Vermeulen, Australia (Honda) 25
8 Jorg Teuchert, Germany (Yamaha) 24
9 Alessio Corradi, Italy (Yamaha) 21
10 Paolo Casoli, Italy (Yamaha) 17

Manufacturers points:
1 Kawasaki 61
2 Suzuki 52
3 Yamaha 47
4 Honda 45
5 Ducati 30

Thanks to Grand Prix Moto Presse and HMC for this release

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