Valencia: Ducati season opener preview

World Superbikes back in action at Valencia. Hodgson and Xaus line up for Team Ducati Fila. The World Superbike Championship swings back into action this weekend at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia, Spain for its sixteenth season. In...

World Superbikes back in action at Valencia.
Hodgson and Xaus line up for Team Ducati Fila.

The World Superbike Championship swings back into action this weekend at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia, Spain for its sixteenth season. In the five months since the memorable end to the 2002 championship, Ducati Corse has been hard at work preparing for the new season, which it will tackle with a new rider, a new bike and a new sponsor.

Britain's Neil Hodgson, who moves up from the ranks of the HM Plant satellite Ducati team to race for Team Ducati Fila, and Spain's Ruben Xaus, confirmed for a third successive year with the factory squad, will spearhead the Italian manufacturer's attack in the World Superbike Championship in 2003.

Hodgson and Xaus are the first riders to get their hands on Ducati's latest Superbike, the 999, and they will ride the 1000cc twin-cylinder machine exclusively throughout the 2003 season. The Ducati 999 Factory '03, which sports an exciting new design married to the successful Testastretta engine, has tested well throughout the winter and promises to continue Ducati's successful tradition, which has seen them take Riders' or Manufacturers' titles with every Superbike machine produced to date (851, 888, 916, 996, 998).

With the arrival of globally-renowned Italian sportswear manufacturer Fila as partner, the bikes also sport a totally new livery for the first time in four years. The 999, resplendent in its exciting new colour scheme, was revealed in a spectacular media event last Monday in Milan, which marked the start of a two-year partnership with Fila.

Hodgson smashed the Valencia lap record at last weekend's pre-season testing session, leaving the new unofficial mark at 1'34.01. Even at this early stage, the 29-year-old British riders is not letting himself be overawed by the tag of #1 favourite for the title: "I'm really looking forward to weekend now because I had a really good test last week and that took a lot of the pressure off me. The Valencia track has not been one of my favourites in the past but as I finally got to know it well at the weekend, I feel a lot more at home on it now. The Ducati 999 is a big improvement on my last year's bike and I feel really comfortable with it and confident about the season ahead."

Xaus, who finished sixth overall in last year's championship, starts his third season with the factory Ducati SBK squad full of confidence for the year ahead is one of the most difficult tracks for me, because it is the way the corners are, they are very tight, with hard braking and changes in direction, not long and fast corners as I like. It's my home race however and with the new Ducati 999 I'm enjoying it much more. The 999 seat is wider than the 998 and it's easier to move the bike around so I feel more comfortable."

CIRCUIT
World Superbike comes to Valencia for the fourth time since the 'Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana' opened for business in 1999. The circuit is 25 kms from Valencia along the motorway to Madrid and can accommodate over 110,000 spectators surrounding the 4.005 km track. Valencia has many slow turns, mainly left-handers and a long pit straight measuring almost 900 metres.

-dft-

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About this article
Series World Superbike
Drivers Neil Hodgson , Ruben Xaus