Battered and bruised teenage Australian racer Ant West will ride in this weekend's Italian Grand Prix at Mugello after arranging to have the plaster cast removed from his injured left wrist.

The 19-year-old 500cc rookie travelled from his European base in Belgium to Italy yesterday and immediately headed for the Mugello circuit, where the cast will be cut free by the grand prix medical team headed by Dr Claudio Costa in time for him to ride in tomorrow's opening practice session.

West cracked his wrist, and also suffered back bruising, when he crashed his Dee Cee Jeans Racing Honda V-Twin on in practice for the French GP at Le Mans. In pain from his injuries, the Australian was forced to miss that race, but is determined not to do likewise in Italy.

"I don't expect any problems with the wrist once the cast comes off because it was only a small crack and there weren't any floating bones or anything like that," said West, "Dr Costa told me at Le Mans that they would probably tape it up to give me
more strength, which you need because braking on the 500 puts a lot of pressure on your wrists."

West, who finished sixth in the 250cc world championship in 2000 before moving up to the 500cc class this year, said he had been treated by a chiropractor in the past two weeks, in addition to undergoing physiotherapy.

"I landed heavily on my back and, after the bruising went down, it was still sore, so I went to a chiropractor and he twisted things around and got everything back in the right place," West explained, "It's still sore, but it's no big deal - when you get on the bike you don't feel anything because you're too busy concentrating on racing."

West, who has raced at Mugello twice before in the 250cc class, said he expected his two-cylinder Honda would be more competitive than in previous races against the fleet of 15 works V4 Hondas, Yamahas, and Suzukis, which have an advantage of about 60 horsepower over his machine.

"Apart from the main straight, which is quite long, we should be on the pace with the V4s everywhere else if we get a good bike set-up," said West, "There is a mix of chicanes and fast, off-camber downhill turns that will suit the 'twin', so the guys on the four cylinder bikes shouldn't have such an advantage as at some of the other tracks."

West missed the opening round at Suzuka in Japan, but scored world championship points in the following two races for finishing 14th at Welkom in South Africa and 15th at Jerez in Spain.

"My plan this weekend is to try and beat some of the V4s and aim for somewhere around the top ten," he said.

West is Australia's best chance to score world championship points on the 5.2km Mugello circuit in the absence of Garry McCoy, who was also injured at Le Mans and will miss the fifth round.

Honda have won the past eight 500cc races at Mugello. Australia's Michael Doohan had six successive victories at the circuit from 1993 - when the race was the San Marino Grand Prix - up to 1998, and Spaniard Alex Criville and Italian Loris Capirossi won at Mugello in the past two years.

Italian Valentino Rossi leads this year's championship on a Nastro Azzuro Honda, with a 34-point advantage over Japanese Antena 3 d'Antin Yamaha racer Norick Abe.

 

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