2004 250cc world championship runner-up Sebastian Porto signed off his pre-season preparations by setting the pace during testing at Jerez this week – and is confident he will be in title contention from the opening event of the 2005 season, at the same circuit, on April 10.
Here the Repsol Aprilia rider talks about his pre-season preparations, his rivals for the 2005 title, his assessment of the class rookies and much more...
What's your assessment of your pre-season?
Very positive. I'm leaving Jerez very satisfied after having improved the times set on the first day, because we've been lapping very fast. The feeling on the bike is getting better every day; since we got it, it's been constantly improving. We've made the jump we needed as regards the chassis, although I think that there are still a couple of things to improve on the engine.
I'm happy, because everything we, as a team, said that had to be improved was heard by Aprilia and they have been working in that direction; we've been able to feel the results. There are still some details left, but we're on the right path. On a personal level, this has been my best preseason. It's my second year with the team, the factory bike.... that's why this year has been different. It wasn't something new, so we were able to start from a better position, because we already have a larger experience.
What do you think about your closest rivals, such as Dani Pedrosa, Alex De Angelis or Randy De Puniet?
We'll be able to see everybody's level once the world championship has started. Now it's just too early to draw any conclusion. However, we've been able to see who's been faster during the preseason.
Our reference is always Pedrosa; he's the world champion and he's being very fast. Surely he'll be the toughest rival despite the little problems he's been having. But I've seen them all very strong. De Puniet is doing a good job and you can see that he's adapted well to the team, and De Angelis is being very strong as well.
And the class rookies?
They'll contribute to a more difficult and contested championship. Barberá, Lorenzo and Dovizioso are combative riders that have shown a progression during the preseason.
They are fast riders who have already proven that they're able to set good times, although we'll have to wait and see how they respond during the race, because they haven't got the rhythm of the class yet. I'm sure that they'll do a very good job and it'll be an interesting battle.
The one I personally see with more chances is probably the current 125cc world champion, Dovizioso, a very consistent rider.
How do you see Aprilia relative to Honda?
We've improved significantly. We've probably made our biggest leap with the chassis. As regards the engine, we've been receiving parts, but we're improving slowly. From my point of view, we still need the engine to be a bit more competitive, but in general terms it's been an important jump.