Team Suzuki will finish a tough 2003 Motocross GP World Championship campaign this weekend hopeful that both of their riders will take slots within the top ten of the final classification.

The Grand Prix of France, occurring at the hillside Ernee circuit, is the final round of twelve in the inaugural year of the MXGP series that has seen 250cc two-strokes and 450cc four-strokes competing together for the first time in the premier class.

Suzuki lost their 250cc crown, which they held for the past two years, to Stefan Everts on the Yamaha four-stroke last weekend in the Czech Republic - and after the season-ending injury to former number one Mickael Pichon several weeks ago in Germany.

With Pichon's points total meaning that he lies untouchable in third position overall as the GP circus moves to his home event, all efforts from the Belgian-based squad will now go into helping Kevin Strijbos complete his debut term as a factory rider and claim a top ten Championship spot.

The Belgian will steer his RM 250cc machine, at the track that last hosted a Grand Prix back in 2001, knowing that he needs a strong points scoring finish against closest rivals and Honda team-mates Yoshitaka Atsuta and Gordon Crockard.

The 18-year-old currently lies tenth, only one point behind Atsuta and ten in front of Crockard, who last weekend won the British Open Championship for the third time in four years.

Strijbos' results have been encouraging in the latter half of the year and while he has not reached the dizzy heights of his career-best fourth position taken at the second round in Holland, a 5th, 6th and 11th in the last three races have given cause for optimism within the team and a decent platform on which to build for next season where the former European Champ will see out the second year of his contract.

Team Suzuki have good memories from their last visit to Ernee when Mickael Pichon took an emotional victory in front of his fans in the 2001 250cc GP. Now, however, they will be looking to wrap up what has been an energy-sapping season.

"This time round the circuit is unlikely to be good for us because the terrain has been so hard at the races this year and we have struggled slightly against the four-strokes," admitted team manager Jen Johansson. "We are without Mickael and I think Kevin will have a tough job on his hands. The circuit is quite technical and this is one small advantage.

"We will be helping Kevin finish as high up the order as possible and it would be good for him in his first season as a factory rider to get a top ten position," he confirmed. "To be honest there is a feeling in the team that the end of the season cannot come quick enough. Mickael was missing in the Czech Republic and we were only running one rider; it felt strange not to have the pressure of the Championship around us which has been quite normal for the last couple of years."



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