HRC and Ducati in Malaysia

HRC riders present alongside the factory Ducati effort. The three Italian powerhouses of Valentino Rossi, Max Biaggi and Loris Capirossi are pitted together for the first time in 2003, and at the end of the first day, when unofficial times were released by the teams, it certainly seems as though the Italian machine will prove to be a hit this year.

The fastest rider out today was Daijiro Kato, ahead of the Desmosedici of Loris Capirossi, who after making waves at Phillip Island and Jerez, is keen to set the cat amongst the pigeons in Malaysia. However his Honda rivals will be quick to point out that they have yet to get their new material for 2003, with all of them bar Biaggi limited to one machine until their updated kit arrives in February.

Valentino Rossi was joined by his new team-mate Nicky Hayden once again, and after the Italian missed the huge majority of Honda´s Jerez test in December due to rain, he will have been disappointed as the dark clouds which had circled overhead for most of the day let loose just after lunch, meaning the World Champion was only able to ride during the morning session.

Max Biaggi, who was finally able to wear Honda colours for the first time on the track since 1998, was joined by his new team-mate Tohru Ukawa, who himself will be sizing his options up against his big Japanese rivals who are also present - Daijiro Kato and Makoto Tamada. Biaggi and Ukawa rode in similar times today, with the Italian having his first full test on the RC211V and beginning impressively. Another rider to have his first full test with his new Honda was Sete Gibernau, who joins the Telefonica Movistar Honda Gresini team alongside Kato.

Finally the Ducati team put both Capirossi and Troy Bayliss back out on track, and their Desmosedici was pitted against the World Championship winning machine for the first time.

Many expect that the Ducati will become competitive throughout the season following on from their success in other arenas, but the Desmosedici has already proved it can go quickly around the Jerez and Phillip Island circuit, and by the showing the Italian and Australian put on today, it seems it wouldn´t be too much to ask them to be challenging from the off at Suzuka.

Unofficial lap times:

Daijiro Kato 2´05.2 (29 laps); Loris Capirossi 2´05.3 (38); Valentino Rossi 2´05.7 (23); Tohru Ukawa 2´06.0 (55); Max Biaggi 2´06.0 (25); Troy Bayliss 2´06.5 (39); Sete Gibernau 2´06.6 (24); Shinichi Itoh 2´07.0 (55); Nicky Hayden 2´07.7 (58); Makoto Tamada 2´09.0 (56).
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George Obradovich
George Obradovich

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