Imola (Italy), 25 September: Imola, the scene for last year's titanic battle between Bayliss (Ducati) and Edwards (Honda), opens its gates again this weekend to World Superbike, which reaches the penultimate round of the 2003 championship. Team Ducati Fila's mission for 2003 was accomplished at Assen when Neil Hodgson picked up the Riders' title to go with the Manufacturers' crown that Ducati had already clinched at Brands Hatch.
"Imola is exciting, historic and demanding" says the newly-crowned world champion. "and in particular I really enjoy the uphill part of the circuit after the tight corner, the flat out right then downhill to the Acque Minerali. It's special, a real privilege to race for the factory with the support of all the fans, you have a responsibility to put on a good show. Although I have never had a good result at Imola, I am looking forward to this race like no other. I won the title at Assen but for me the only enjoyment out there comes from winning and I want to get two first places at Imola."
Team-mate Ruben Xaus will also be looking for two good results to consolidate his second place in the championship. Ruben has already won at Imola for Ducati but does not feel any particular pressure at what is essentially Ducati's 'home' race. "I feel no pressure here, it's worse for me when I am at Valencia so the Imola race doesn't create any problems" says Ruben. "I finished first and second in 2001 and twice third last year but I love racing here because there are thousands of 'ducatisti', the track is in Italy and Ducati has always obtained fantastic results at Imola, starting with the 200 Miles race in 1972".
CIRCUIT: the Autodromo Enzo & Dino Ferrari has been permanent since 1979, when it was updated and modified to become an established Formula 1 venue. The first World Superbike round was held here in 2001, and last year's spectacular race was watched by a record-breaking 97,000 spectators, the highest-ever figure in Italian motorcycling history. The 4.933 km sloping circuit has 10 left and 6 right-hand corners and a finish line straight measuring 358 metres.
DUCATI EMPLOYEES: The Imola race will also be a special event for the many Ducati employees who work at the Borgo Panigale factory just a quick trip up the motorway. A 500-seat grandstand has been reserved for employees, suppliers and supporters directly in front of the Ducati Fila pit garage and they are sure to make a spectacular sight with their red Ducati T-shirts! Meanwhile down at the Rivazza curve the usual display of pyrotechnics has been organised by the Ducati Desmodromic Club of Rome to cheer on the Ducati riders at that point of the circuit.
FILA GUESTS: Ducati Fila's title sponsor will be bringing along three of its athletes, all keen Ducati fans, to Imola to lend their support to the team at the penultimate round of the championship: Italian ice-hockey star Gianluca Tomasello, Olympic slalom skier Giorgio Rocca and cross-country skiing expert Cristian Zorzi.