Sugo Preview From Ducati

Brent Avis
by Brent Avis
After Australia and South Africa, the third successive fly-away race inthe 2002 World Superbike Championship takes place this coming weekend atthe Sugo Sportsland circuit, near Sendai in the north of Japan. All eyeswill be on reigning champion Troy Bayliss (Ducati Infostrada) to seewhether he can extend his sensational early-season run of six wins on therun and equal the all-time record holder, Doug Polen, who notched up aseven-race winning streak for Ducati back in 1991. The championshipleader will be up against two unknown factors around the 3.737 km Sugotrack this weekend: Japanese "wild-card" riders, who always go wellhere, and tire performance.

Bayliss and Sugo have not exactly had the best of relations in the twoyears the Australian has raced here. In 2000, he failed to complete a lapafter twice being knocked off by Japanese riders at the first corner,while last year he could only manage four points after struggling allweekend with tyre problems...

"I'll certainly be trying to get a coupleof wins this weekend to keep my run going, but I know it's going to bedifficult. Every time I come here, I look for a good weekend, but it justhasn't happened -- yet!" declared Troy. "I really like the Sugocircuit, it's up and down, not exactly like Kyalami, where I won twoweeks ago, but very undulating. I know it's going to be a lot betterthis year than it was in 2001, for lots of reasons, not just because ofthe tires."

Ruben Xaus (Ducati Infostrada) continued his promising early season format Kyalami with a third and a second place, but is under no illusionsabout the task ahead this weekend in Japan. "I would like to come awayfrom here with as many points as possible," he declared. "I like thetrack but it's very difficult and the Japanese riders always go wellhere. We were unlucky last year, but I'm sure things will be differentthis time around. I'd like to be on the podium, but the most importantthing is to work well for the race in practice and qualifying and then doyour best on Sunday to score as many points as possible. There are a lotof races to go and the real championship starts in Europe."

Last year at Sugo Ben Bostrom (Ducati L&M) out-performed everyone exceptthe Japanese riders and the 27-year-old Californian will be hoping toshine in a race that sees him reunited with his brother Eric for thefirst time since Laguna Seca. "I'm more excited about this race at Sugothan at any other track. The tires work really well here and I'veforgotten what it's like to stand on top of the box," said Bostrom.

"The wild-card riders will make it interesting as always, because noneof the WSBK regulars ever win here. Last year we came very close togetting on the podium, so maybe it's our turn now. I'm feeling reallyfit, I've been hanging out with my brother for a couple of weeks andjust can't wait to go here."

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