Team Proton Looks to Mugello

Brent Avis
by Brent Avis
Proton Team KR rider Jurgen van den Goorbergh and the independentEngland-based team are looking forward to the Italian GP with specialinterest. Held at the fast and flowing circuit of Mugello, a completecontrast to the stop-and-go Le Mans venue for the previous round, theteam feels the circuit should bring out the best in the lightweight alternative racer.

"I think we could go better than most people expect," said Chuck Aksland.The team Manager was cautiously optimistic after astrong race at the French GP where the bike had its first top ten finish of theseason...

A further refinement of chassis setting in subsequent testing meant that the top Dutch riderwas able to improve still further on lap times set during the previousthree days.

"At Mugello, the turns are long and flowing, and run into one anotherlike fast chicanes.Our bike seems to get through those corners well, and the data we foundat the Le Manstest is another step forward in that area.

"The track has a long straight, so it's important to get out of theprevious long downhill corner fast. In the past, Jurgen has found ways to achieve a good corner exit speed at similar places - like Estoril inPortugal.

"With the work we've done on aerodynamics, speed hasn't really been anissue this year anyway. We're generally up among the fast times, and nomore than five or seven km/h slower, where last year it was closer to 15km/h," continued Aksland.

"Jurgen is a very experienced rider who understands the machine well andknows exactly what he wants. We're getting closer and closer to that allthe time. We hope things go right for us to prove it in Italy," heconcluded.

What Jurgen Thinks:

"We tried a couple of new things in the test at Le Mans - firstly solvingthe fuel problem that made me slower in the early laps, and also a newchassis geometry that seems to be working - I improved lap times byalmost half a second consistently, and I'm getting an even better feelingwith the bike.

"At Mugello we will have to see how well we go down the straight. In thepast with the twin-cylinder I could come out of the last corner fasterthan the V4s, then try to get into their slipstream when they came pastas the speed built up. I'll do the same with the three cylinder. Thedifference is this bike is fast enough to stay in the slipstream wheretheir twin wasn't fast enough.

"I like the track a lot, and we've already worked on getting a specialset-up for the fast chicanes.It looks good."

Note:The Italian GP will be held June 1/2/3 and is the fifth round in a season that got a shot in the arm last weekend in France, where Italian Yamaha rider Max Biaggi andteam-mate Carlos Checa pushed three time winner Valentino Rossi's Hondainto third place. The rivalry between Biaggi and Rossi will create anelectric atmosphere at the picturesque circuit, where hordes of fans willline the hillsides overlooking the narrow valley, and the peaceful hillsoutside the Tuscan capital of Florence will resound to more than just thesound of Grand Prix Motorcycle exhausts.

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