Only those who have the talent and desire to have achieved world championship success know that feeling of ultimate triumph never leaves you - just ask Sito Pons.

It was 15 years ago that Pons set Spain alight when he won the 250cc world title - becoming the first Spaniard to achieve such a feat. A year later, he won the title again and, today, at the start of a monumental new MotoGP season, the rider-turned-team manager has that very same feeling he first experienced in 1988.

The arrival of a new title sponsor - and two riders from a select club who won MotoGP grands prix races last year - to join his close-knit, hard-working professional Barcelona-based team is the reason behind Pons' guarded optimism - and no wonder!

Four times world 250cc champion Max Biaggi finished runner-up to Valentino Rossi in last year's inaugural MotoGP championship, despite riding the sometimes less-competitive four-stroke Yamaha. The bearded Italian made it plain that he wanted an RCV Honda similar to Rossi if he was going to challenge his great rival in the title chase this year, and Honda Pons duly provided him with one - along with a team with the experience of winning races last year.

In 2002, Japanese rider Tohru Ukawa finished third in the championship, and won the Africas Grand Prix, riding for the official Honda team. Ukawa needed that little bit more flexibility provided by a satellite Honda team and, once again, it was Honda Pons who came up with the solution. Ukawa joins Biaggi in a line-up that, last year, won three MotoGP grands Prix. World champion Rossi and Alex Barros - who was then riding for Honda Pons - were the only other winners.

At the end of last season, Honda Pons lost its title sponsor but, just three months later, tobacco brand Camel announced that its very first involvement in MotoGP would be a three-year title with the now combined Pramac Honda Pons operation. The final piece of the jigsaw was complete.

''We have our strongest ever team and, surely, our best-ever chance of winning the championship,'' admitted a naturally cautious Pons, who became a team manager when he retired from racing in 1992.

''Never before have we had riders who finished second and third in the championship the previous year. Put them together with a title sponsor like Camel, which has the same power and passion for success as ourselves, and we have a great chance.''

Biaggi, after dominating the World 250cc championship for four years, has finished runner-up in the 500cc and MotoGP Championships twice. His rivalry with fellow Italian Rossi have made headlines throughout the world, and the older Italian is determined to beat the young upstart this year, especially now that they are riding similar machinery. Pons is certain Biaggi can do it.

''Max will have the right team round him to complete both his and our dream - that MotoGP World title,'' he said, ''It's vital for Max that he has the right technical people around him. After our winning experiences with the four-stroke Honda last year, we can provide him with just that.

''However, it's his passion to win which is the most important thing, and we share exactly the same way of thinking. We will not rest until we have provided Max with a world championship-winning machine to fulfil both our dreams. We have a three-year deal with both Camel and Max, which means we can plan for the future in a way we have never been able to do in the past.''

Ukawa also came through the 250cc ranks, finishing second to Rossi in the 1999 championship, and joins Biaggi after being team-mate to Rossi in the official Honda MotoGP team last year.

''This is a good move for Tohru, and he will find it different riding for us than for the factory team,'' Pons continued, ''He will have the freedom to set up and improve the bike the way he wants. He did really well last year wining in Welkom and finishing third in the championship - he knows the RCV Honda as well as any rider and that will help us all.''

However cautious or optimistic a picture Pons wants to paint, it is expected to be the toughest year ever in the 54-year history of grand prix motorcycle racing. No less than nine world champions line-up on the grid for the first race of the year, at Suzuka on 6 April, including two converts from the World Superbike series in the form of Ducati's Troy Bayliss and Aprilia's Colin Edwards.

Sixteen races in twelve countries and five continents after its opening round in Japan, the championship ends in November at Valencia in Spain - the ideal location to celebrate the Camel Pramac Pons team's first world title. No wonder Sito Pons is getting twinges of that championship winning feeling after 14 long years....



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