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AMA - Superbike Tests
at Laguna Seca.
Gobert and Eric Bostrom battle for top time.

Despite a stomach virus, Gobert blazed to top time on first day and “just aclick off” the lead on second day – opts
for rest on final day.The Ducati Austin race program and
rider Anthony “Go Show” Gobert
cranked out some impressive lap times at this week’s Laguna Seca test session, featuring the major factories and teams participating in the 2003
AMA/Chevy Truck U.S. Superbike Championships.

Ducati Austin’s Anthony Gobert, who for a number of years held the lap time record at Laguna Seca (1999 to 2002)
on the legendary Ducati 996, battled a painful stomach virus, a new fork set up and bad weather conditions, en route to the fastest time of the day on Tuesday – a 1:26.8.

“The first day we didn’t get out until about noon,” said Ducati Austin Crew Chief, Vic Fasola. “It was foggy, generally bad weather, and Anthony rode well despite being under the weather himself.”

On the second day (Wednesday), Gobert put the Ducati 998RS03 up in
the lead for much of the day before being edged out by rival Eric Bostrom on the factory Kawasaki ZX7RR, 1:26.2 to 1:26.4.

“We were testing some new Ohlins forks, working on the rear shock settings, bike geometry, fuel mapping – all the typical stuff for getting going on a race track and Anthony up to speed on the Ducati,” said Fasola. “It was a very successful test. Despite being sick, Anthony was
the fastest rider on the first day and only a click off the lead on the second day. And you’ve got to remember, Eric (Bostrom) was on the same bike at Laguna last year.” (Note: The gas-filled Ohlins forks, fairly new to the States, are being used by many number of the World
Superbike teams.)

By the third day of testing (today), Gobert’s stomach flu got the best of him and the team decided to pack it in a day early. “If push came to shove, and it was race day, he’d have run,” said Fasola. “He’s gone
home to see his doctor. We think it’s some kind of flu bug.”

The Ducati Austin race team’s next test session will be February 5-6 at Fontana Speedway, California. In the meantime, Fasola and some other members of the team will travel to Italy to visit the Ducati factory
for what Fasola calls “A little show and tell.”

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FastDates.com January 2003
Page 1 • Racing & Calendar News
Superbike, MotoGP, Calendar Girls

Official Calendar of the SBK World Superbike Championship
Sponsor of AMA 750cc Supersport Champs EBSCO Corona Extra Suzuki

This Week's Starting Grid: Pinup Calendar Review &

Supermodel Meets Superbike Janelle tests the new Ducati 999S!
Our 2003 Annual Motorcyle Pinup Calendar Review Caution Nudity!
World Premier! Our 2003 FastDates.com Corona Extra Suzuki
   AMA Superbike Team, plus Jean Michelle Bayle on our
   2003 World SuperMotard Team and LA Supermotard Race

SBK 2002 Superbike Championship Final at Imola
   The most exciting Championship final ever, Edwards retakes title.
• MotoGP 2002 Valentino Rossi takes first MotoGP Championship title in    Brazil HERE. Alex Barros wins Valencia season final HERE.
AMA 2002 National Season Finals Nicky Hayden on top.
   FastDates.com Corona Suzuki wins its 2nd 750cc SuperSport title!
British Superbike 2002 Final Steve Hislop wins title then dumped!
The Pit Board Editorial, Race Schedules, Mail, Index, Features
Valentino Rossi Biography of a World Champion

FastDates.com Calendar Angel Chandi Mason is one of our official SBK World Superbike Fast Dates models for 2003. Meet Chandi at Laguna Seca and our LA Calendar Motorcycle Show and Super Motard FastDates.com National in July!

American Superbike champ Nicky Hayden launches the RC211 out of a corner in testing.

Honda and Ducati MotoGP teams test at Sepang
Rivals Rossi and Biaggi turn top times for Honda
Honda and Ducati MotoGP Winter Tests, Sepang, Malaysia, Jan 20-22, 2003: The Christmas and New Year holidays are well and truly over and it was back to work for the MotoGP Championship teams as they prepare for the 2003 season. The MotoGP Open Winter Tests for all the Honda teams and Team Marlboro Ducati at Sepang, Malaysia, ended on a high note with all teams and riders satisfied with the results and the data logged for future reference. Overnight rain lingered at the 5.548km circuit during the morning of the final day but by 13.30. the track was dry enough for he riders to get in track time in good conditions.

Rivals Rossi and Biaggi quickly up to speed on Day One
Repsol Honda MotoGP Championship Team riders Valentino Rossi, the reigning MotoGP World Champion, and American Superbike Champion Nicky Hayden, completed day one of the three day Honda winter test at the 5.548km Sepang circuit, Malaysia, today.

Champion Rossi spent the day evaluating the braking performance of his RC211V five-cylinder, 990cc four-stroke, while 2003 MotoGP debutante Hayden made his acquaintance with the fast grand prix circuit. Valentino Rossi: "Today we did only 23 laps. We only have one bike and started with the set up we had at the GP in Sepang last year. We concentrated on braking today and the transmission performance while under braking. But if I need adjustments made it's difficult with only one bike, I have to wait while the mechanics get it ready. This afternoon when we came in to make changes it was dry, when the bike was ready it was raining. So we decided to stop. This is just the first day and we hope for a full days testing tomorrow."

Nicky Hayden: "This is another good chance for me to get in some training on the bike. This is my first time at Sepang and I like it, it's a real GP circuit, fast and safe. I didn't push so hard today I just concentrated on finding a set up for the circuit and trying to find a good rhythm out sthere. I need the experience."

Rossi goes over the electronic feedback from his practice laps with an HRC engineer and Repsol Honda team manager Jeremy Burgess.

The Telefonica MoviStar Honda Gresini team began the Sepang test as a full team, with team riders, Daijiro Kato and Sete Gibernau testing their RC211V machines at the 5.548km circuit. New boy to the RCV camp, Sete Gibernau, who had only once briefly tested the RCV prior today, spent the opening day of the test finding a base set up to work from. Sete Gibernau: "This is my first full test on board the Honda RC211V, and obviously it will take time to adapt to the new machine, but there is no rush. There are a few little things, mainly electronics, that need setting up to suit me, but little by little it will come. Also, after a break such as the one I've just had, you need to get back into the mindframe of racing once again, to pick up the rhythm where you left off. This is obviously harder when you have to get used to a new bike too, but for an initial test, I'm very satisfied indeed. The team is very good and very supportive, and I'm excited about the year ahead, and about fighting for the top positions once again."

Teammate Kato concentrated his efforts on suspension work, an area the diminutive, lightweight Japanese feels vital to his success in 2003. Daijiro Kato: "I feel refreshed after the short winter break, but I picked
up a bit of a stomach upset yesterday, and I still feel a little under the weather today, so that didn't help me, even though I set a good lap time. We are working mainly on the suspension settings for the bike, which is
where I need to focus most. We do not have the new parts for this season to test yet - they will arrive in February at the next session. I'm looking forward to 2003 now, and although it rained here this afternoon I decided against going out, because I got lots of rain laps in during the test we did in Jerez."

Third place finisher in the MotoGP Championship last season, Tohru Ukawa, was at Sepang with his new team. Ukawa completed put in 56 laps aboard the Honda Pons RCV during the opening day of the test. Tohru Ukawa: "Everything is going okay here in Sepang, where we are currently working mainly on both the front and rear suspension settings. We have already improved it considerably and will be working on it more
tomorrow. This afternoon I was going to dedicate to tyre testing, but then the rain came, so I couldn't do any of that, hopefully the rain will stay away for the next two days. We are still using the same machine as last
year, testing some of the new parts added whilst they construct a whole new bike in Japan. Overall though, I am happy with how everything is going with my new team, communication is good and we work well together."

Italian Max Biaggi returns to the Honda camp in 2003 racing an RCV for the Pramac Honda Team. Biaggi completed 27 laps today, primarily trying various adjustments to the seating position, footrests, and the controls, in a bid to find the most comfortable riding position. Max Biaggi: "Today was the first time I sat on a motorcycle for over two months. I didn't do so many laps today, it's a new bike and we have a lot of testing before we start the season. We were working on the electronics today and we needed some help form the Japanese technicians. They had many riders to look after so it took time. We spent time on my seating position on the bike, footpegs, levers, I have yet to feel comfortable on the bike. The important thing now is for me to understand the strong and weak points of the motorcycle. Right now I feel the strong point is the power and the delivery, the weak point is the clutch."

Makoto Tamada makes his MotoGP debut in 2003, riding the second Pramac liveried RCV. Tamada's machine will be equipped with Bridgestone tyres as the Japanese manufacturer steps up its tyre development programme, working with four-stroke MotoGP machines for the first time. Tamada completed 56 laps of the track today. Makoto Tamada: "The first day of testing was, as always, dedicated to the set-up of the bike, partly because it's the first time I've ever been to Sepang and I need to understand and interpret the circuit. I'm pleased with the way things went today, as I've been able to prepare well for the days ahead. There's plenty of room for improvement, and we'll be carrying on with the test programme tomorrow."

Bridgestone have also recruited the services of former grand prix rider Shinichi Itoh to assist with their winter testing programme. Itoh, now an HRC test rider, has been working on various Bridgestone testing projects in
recent years and his vast knowledge of grand prix racing and Bridgestone tyres will be invaluable to new boy Tamada as he approaches the most important season of his young career. Shinichi Itoh: "I hadn't ridden at Sepang for a year - and last time I was using tyres from a different manufacturer. I noticed the difference, and after trying out a few solutions we drew up the work programme for the coming days. It's going to be pretty intense but I'm not worried about the quantity of work as I'm sure we'll be able to achieve some excellent

Honda test times Sepang January 20, 2003: Valentino Rossi, ITA Repsol Honda 2m 05.76s - 23 laps.
Daijiro Kato, JPN Telefonica MoviStar Honda 2m 05.02s - 29 laps. Max Biaggi, ITA Pramac Honda Team 2m 06.0s - 27 laps. Tohru Ukawa, JPN Honda Pons 2m 06.0s - 55 laps. Sete Gibernau, SPA Telefonica MoviStar Honda 2m 06.6s - 28 laps. Shinichi Itoh, JPN HRC Honda 2m 07.5s - 55 laps. Nicky Hayden, USA Repsol Honda 2m 07.76s - 58 laps. Makoto Tamada, JPN Pramac Honda Team 2m 09.2s - 56 laps.

Lap Times Tumble on Second Day of HRC Sepang Test
Jan 21st: Day two of the HRC winter test at the Sepang circuit, in Malaysia, saw all Honda RC211V riders lower their lap times from yesterdays opening session. Reigning MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi set a scorching pace on his Repsol Honda while testing tyres for team supplier Michelin. In the searing temperatures and high humidity of Sepang Rossi set a lap time 1.6s faster than his best lap time during the grand prix held at Sepang October of last year.

Valentino Rossi: "Basically very happy with the results of today. The bike now seems stable and we have no chatter. It is now possible to go very fast and to keep regular fast laps. The engine feels strong and I have good
traction without having to slow to stop spinning. We will keep all the settings the same for tomorrow. We have worked hard on the front today with nine different compound Michelins. Tomorrow we will work more on the rear."

Rossi's Repsol Honda teammate, American Superbike Champion Nicky Hayden, was feeling more at home on day two of the test. The American put in an amazing 84 laps of the circuit, lowering his lap time by over a second from yesterday as he familiarised himself with both the changes to he RCV and the Sepang circuit. Nicky Hayden: "I'm feeling a lot more comfortable on the bike which is good but the track has taken me a lot longer to learn than I'm used to; certainly longer than the other GP tracks I've ridden on. It's such a long lap time and so much wider. Although we got a faster lap time it's been a little frustrating today and at times we seem to be going round in circles - I guess hardly surprising - it's still early days. Tomorrow we'll do more work with suspension setting and with tyres. Step by step!"

Honda Testing times Sepang January 21st: Valentino Rossi, ITA Repsol Honda 2m 03.5s 65 laps. Daijiro Kato, JPN Telefonica MoviStar Honda 2m 4.3s 56 laps. Max Biaggi, ITA Pramac Honda Team 2m 04.5s 47 laps. Sete Gibernau, SPA Telefonica MoviStar Honda 2m 04.9s 58 laps. Tohru Ukawa, JPN Honda Pons 2m 04.9s. Shinichi Itoh, JPN HRC Honda 2m 05.6s 76 laps 76 laps. Nicky Hayden, USA Repsol Honda 2m 06.6s 84 laps. Makoto Tamada, JPN Pramac Honda Team 2m 07.1s 61 laps.

New Honda rivals Rossi and Biaggi burn ip the track on Day Three
Jan 22nd: Most riders spent the afternoon testing tyres for their 2003 suppliers. The Repsol Honda team of Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden pronounced themselves satisfied at the end of the day. Rossi happy with the amount of technical set up and tyre testing work he completed, Hayden happy with the progress he has made to date.

Valentino Rossi: "A good three days and for me the best part is to understand the problems we have had in braking. We got some good settings yesterday and today we have found some good Michelin tyres. The grip on the edge has always been a problem but today we have the tyres and the settings to get good grip on the edge. The engine and chassis feel strong and now we understand the braking better it is possible to make a good time."

Max Biaggi: "I can look back on this test and say it was very positive. Two and a half months without riding a motorcycle. But within 10 laps of riding this bike I felt comfortable, at the end of the test I felt quite good
about it. Today we finalised the set up and covered a lot of kilometers. Michelin asked us to do an endurance test with the tyres. The test went well, Michelin are doing a great job for us for 2003. I spent the last 10
minutes of the test I pushed hard looking for the limit. I got close but I didn't want to make a mistake on the first test with the bike. The team and I are beginning to understand each other and I feel comfortable. We now
have one month before we test again. I will keep my concentration, I want to ride the bike again as soon as possible. I'm having a lot of fun with it!"

Nicky Hayden: "I've gotta be pretty pleased with the tests here. It's an awesome place and although it's been hard learning the track on the new bike - I've leaned heaps and the important thing is I've stayed upright and
the times are getting faster. Things seemed to get better when we set most of the bike to standard settings and I could concentrate on the tyres and just riding the bike better. I'd like to be able to go harder into the turns. It's a question of confidence really. I know I can be far harder on this bike than I could be on my VTR. I'm enjoying it. I'm sure it'll come!"

Honda Testing times Sepang January 22nd:. Valentino Rossi, ITA Repsol Honda 2m 02.65s 55 laps. Max Biaggi, ITA Pramac Honda Team 2m 02.8s 48 laps. Tohru Ukawa, JPN Honda Pons 2m 03.4s. Daijiro Kato, JPN Telefonica MoviStar Honda 2m 03.7s. Sete Gibernau, SPA Telefonica MoviStar Honda 2m 04.3s. Nicky Hayden, USA Repsol Honda 2m 05.47s 60 laps. Makoto Tamada, JPN Pramac Honda Team 2m 06.5s 30 laps. Shinichi Itoh, JPN HRC Honda 2m 06.5s 31 laps.

Loris Capirossi power slides the new Desmosedici. His MotoGP experience and track knowledge is allowing him to come to grips with the new bike much quicker than team mate Superbike Champ Troy Bayliss.

New Ducati Marlboro Desmosedici Team on Pace at Sepang
The Ducati Marlboro Team started its three-day test at Sepang with Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss continuing development and set-up work on the Ducati Desmosedici for its first season in the MotoGP championship. This was Ducati’s first ever appearance at the Malaysian circuit, and Troy Bayliss, unlike Loris Capirossi, was getting to grips with the Sepang track for the first time.

On arrival, the Ducati Marlboro Team was greeted with average temperatures of 30° C (35° C track) in addition to stifling humidity and the test session was later interrupted by a violent tropical downpour in the afternoon. The first day of testing however allowed the Ducati engineers to continue with set-up work on the bike and the riders to gain more experience with the Desmosedici prototype. Using the positive tests
at Phillip Island as a basis, the riders undertook several test sessions, and by the end of the day Capirossi had completed 38 laps and Bayliss 39.

The second day of testing for the Ducati Marlboro Team at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia mainly revolved around set-up work on the Ducati Desmosedici. Both Capirossi and Bayliss completed a similar number of laps, 56 for Loris and 57 for Troy. The high temperatures (air 33° C / 51° track) enabled the team to
verify the performance of the bike in difficult conditions, and confirmed the validity of the technical solutions applied so far by Ducati Corse engineers.

Both riders slightly improved their times on day two. Capirossi, who felt more at home on the Malaysian track, got down to a time of 2’04.4”, while Bayliss continued his learning curve, but improved on
yesterday’s performance to end the day with a time of 2’06.1”.

“I’m pleased with the way testing went today” commented Troy at the end of the session. “My aim is above all to learn the track and establish the right feeling with the bike and the results so far show that we are on the right track. Today we concentrated on finding the best set-up for these temperatures and this type of track surface. I feel that we’ve still got a lot of room for improvement, but at the moment I prefer to concentrate on testing and set-up. As well as the Michelin tyres, today I also tried a number of different fairings, due to the high temperatures, and new gear ratios. We have to take advantage of every lap of the track to understand the bike and we’ll be doing the same sort of work tomorrow.”

“Today we did a really good job” declared Loris. “We managed to resolve many of the doubts that we had yesterday, in particular regarding grip. We tested lots of front and rear tyres and by the end
of the day we had sorted out the problems of traction and spinning at the rear. This enabled me to improve on yesterday’s time and I finished with 2’04.4”. We mustn’t forget however that we are only here to do testing and tomorrow will also be dedicated to the tyres and accumulating as much experience as possible because
inexperience will be our worst enemy. The results that we are obtaining day after day are most satisfying and give us cause for hope. In addition these four-stroke bikes are really enjoyable to ride, the Desmosedici slides around easily, it’s great fun!.”

AMA Pess Release 1/20/03: A program has been developed by AMA Pro Racing and WERA Motorcycle Roadracing  to give leading WERA riders a better opportunity to compete in the AMA Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Championship. Riders finishing in the top three in WERA's 600 and 750 National Challenge classes will be awarded free AMA Pro Racing licenses and a set number of free entries for the 2003 season.

The program will work as follows: First place riders in WERA 600 and 750 National Challenge classes will be provided a free AMA Pro Racing license and seven free entries into AMA Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Championship events. Second-place riders will receive the license and five free entries, and third-place riders will get a license and three free entries. Entries may be used for any class in which the rider is licensed to participate in 2003. "We see WERA as a valuable partner in developing America's road-racing talent,"
said Scott Hollingsworth, AMA Pro Racing CEO. "We would like to provide WERA's best riders a better opportunity to make a smooth transition into the AMA Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Championship and this program will help make that possible."

WERA President Evelyne Clarke sees the AMA Pro Racing/WERA alliance as a great opportunity to give WERA riders much deserved recognition. "WERA has always been a training ground for riders who have gone on to win national and world championships," said Clarke. "We are happy to see our riders go on to be successful in AMA Pro Racing. This union between WERA and AMA Pro Racing should provide even more of an opportunity to showcase our top riders and to give them help in making the transition to AMA Pro Racing." For additional information on this program contact AMA Pro Racing at (614) 856-1900 or via e-mail at proinfo@amaproracing.com.

WERA Motorcycle Roadracing, Inc, is one of the oldest and largest national sanctioning bodies conducting motorcycle roadraces at road courses across the United States. 1999 marked the 25th Anniversary for WERA Motorcycle Roadracing. There are over 3,000 roadracers holding a competition license and 250 holding a
support membership.

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Our SBK Fast Dates World Superbike Girls win!
Two things to tell you about. Firstly, Nicky Lane pictured above - Miss Great Britain 2001, our official SBK Fast Dates World Superbike calendar girl at Laguna Seca 2002 who is featured in our upcoming 2004 Calendars and was Troy Bayliss' Ducati umbrella girl at Laguna, Nicki won the title of Miss Reading (her home city in Britain) and she's back in the finals of Miss Great Britain for 2003.

Plus, Nicki's got through to the final stages of British TV's Cheerleader Idol, which is one of those competitions similar to American Idol. The winner will get to dance during the British Superbowl for the Jacksonville Jaguars team -so pretty good prize. Nicki is a professional dancer, teacher and certified aerobics instructor.

And pictured above, Joanna Krupa, another one of our 2004 FastDates.com Calendar Angels who will be joining us as an official SBK Fast Dates World Superbike girl at Laguna Seca 2003, won the Spokesmodel competiton on American TV's Star Search on Thursday the 23rd. Please watch Joanna in the coming weeks on Star Seach as she tries to advance through to the finals. Please cast your vote for her during the show at www.cbs.com/star


SBK Fast Dates 2003
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USA order: Calendars.com
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AMA Pro Racing Announces New U.S. Super Moto Championship

Will our LA Calendar Motorcycle Show to be the premier event of the Series?

PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- AMA Pro Racing will debut an all new motorcycle racing championship in 2003 based on the popular supermoto format. The series is
scheduled to begin in late Spring and AMA Pro Racing plans a complete press conference and introduction during Daytona Bike Week in March.

According to Scott Hollingsworth, CEO of AMA Pro Racing, the new series already has the support of the major OEMs as well as a number of national sponsors. "It's apparent that the marketplace is ready for this championship and AMA Pro
Racing is pleased to take the leadership role in its development," said

"Supermoto, with its combination of road racing, motocross and
flat track elements, is a fantastic platform for manufacturers to showcase new product and expand their marketing opportunities. Plus, there's no better way to demonstrate rider versatility.  To succeed in this series competitors will have
to master several racing disciplines."

A cross section of national caliber riders has expressed interest in competingin the series including reigning AMA Progressive Insurance U.S. Flat Track Champion Chris Carr, two-time X-Games gold medalist /freestyle motocross star
Mike Metzger, five-time Daytona 200 winner Scott Russell and former World GP Champion, Kevin Schwantz. Bringing riders together from differing racing
backgrounds will ensure not only a good show but broad fan appeal as well.

Races will run in conjunction with already-established AMA professional races or
as stand-alone events in a number of major markets nationwide. One of the goals
of the series is to offer as many riders as possible the opportunity to compete. Complete series details, including class structure and rules will be announced
in March.

Meanwhile our own National caliber FastDates.com SuperMotard Race Weekend is taking place at our huge Los Angeles Calendar Motorcyle Show Weekend July 19-20th at the Queen Mary Event Park in Long Beach. With over 20,000 spectators and 150 industry manufacturers and companies in attendance in the heart of America's motorcycle community, this will no doubt be the premier Supermotard event in America.
Our Motard event is being produced by Paul Brent and Glen Curtis of MotoMaster. The AMA is presently in negotiations with us to secure our race as the showcase event in their proposed National Championship Series. Title sponsorships opportunities for our Los Angles round are available by contacting Gianatsis Design at ph: 818-223-8550.

Big changes at
Yamaha Belgarda
Paolo Casolo and Jamie Whitham forced to retire with medical problems
Team Yamaha Belgarda have signed MotoGP star Jurgen van den Goorbergh to spearhead their 2003 Supersport World Championship campaign. The 33 year-old Dutchman attended last weekend’s team test in Valencia, Spain, where he showed great promise aboard the new 2003 YZF-R6.

The good news of Jurgen’s arrival comes at a sad time for the team as they learn of the departure of riders Paolo Casoli and Jamie Whitham, who will both be retiring from racing for health reasons.

Casoli has spent the winter months convalescing from a cranial trauma he sustained in a crash while testing last November. This week a full neurological examination by Professor Carlo Bollini at the Bellaria Hospital in Bologna has shown the 37 year-old Italian is completely over the trauma but retains some mild tissue damage (anencephaly) which, in the case of another crash, could lead to more serious complications. Casoli, who in all other respects can lead a normal healthy life, has chosen to follow the advice of his doctors and retire from racing.

"The doctors have been very honest, they told me that if I crashed again I could have big problems and ruin my future; this is too much of a risk that I don't feel like taking" explained Casoli. "I am very sad to leave in this way after 20 years of racing at the highest level. In 2003 I would have had a very fast Yamaha, new tyres and the ambition to win the Supersport World Championship. I couldn't wait to face this challenge. But I have to think about my family too, they are my main reason for life. I have a son, a wife and wonderful parents who would have worried too much knowing the risks I was taking. So I prefer to stop."

By an unlucky twist of fate, Paolo’s team-mate Jamie Whitham, another 20-year veteran of racing, has also seen his career cut short by health concerns: this time glaucoma of the left eye. At the end of last season he first encountered slight vision difficulties and sought medical treatment, though the full impact of the problem has only now become evident. Jamie maintains near normal vision for daily activities but the impairment becomes more acute during the stresses of top-level competitive racing and this has led to his decision to retire. Doctors have suggested that the cause of the problem may be the chemotherapy treatment that Whitham received in 1995 after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease - a form of lymphatic cancer, from which he made a full recovery.

“I was aware of this problem at the end of last season and discussed it with the team,” said Whitham. “I didn’t notice it again during the first two winter tests when we were in the wet and riding quite slow, but it became a problem while I was testing at full speed in the dry last weekend. I just can’t give that last 10% with any confidence - and confidence is what racing is all about. I wouldn’t want to put myself or anyone else in danger, plus the guys at Belgarda are more like a family than a team and they deserve to have a rider who is 100% fit. I know the bike is going to be good - good enough to win the championship - so it’s important that they have the best possible rider. It’s been a really hard decision to make - I’ve been racing all my life and all my friends are in racing. I know I’ve got be philosophical but I’m really going to miss it.”

Claudio Consonni, Yamaha Belgarda’s racing director, admitted to feelings of both pleasure and pain by the developments: “I feel split down the middle today. I feel very sad to see two such great riders and friends as Paolo and Jamie leave. We are very close to them both and hope they will remain part of the Belgarda extended family. On the one hand it‘s very exciting for us to have signed Jurgen and I’m sure he will be give us a great chance at the title this year. He has the right skill and mentality and we are very optimistic.”

Asked about his move from MotoGP to Supersport, Jurgen had the following to say: “After MotoGP I think World Supersport is the most important and competitive race class, where all major manufacturers are represented. I have already tested the new R6 and have a very positive feeling for both the bike and the team. It can’t be easy for such a close team to lose both riders at once, I’m aware I have a big gap to fill and certainly hope I can meet the challenge.”

Together with his army of enthusiastic Dutch race fans, Jurgen will be supported in his challenge of the 2003 Supersport World Championship title by Yamaha Motor Netherlands. Yamaha Belgarda will test with 24 year-old Italian, Simone Sanna, on the 26th and 27th of January in Valencia. The ex-GP125 rider has already had trials on World Superbike machinery this past winter with impressive results.

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