The Aprilia RS3 has made its official debut in a private test session organised by the Italian factory for its MotoGP, 250 and 125 teams at Jerez.

Overnight rain left the track unsuitable for testing until after lunch, although it did wash away much of the dust created by construction work to leave a clean surface when the riders began to lap shortly after 1300hrs. The four-stroke MotoGP machine was restricted to just a few cautionary laps at the hands of experienced veteran test rider Marcellino Lucchi, whilst team-mate Regis Laconi completed a 'shakedown' session on the Aprilia superbike he rode in WSB last season.

"The rain delayed us only slightly this morning with it being our first day of work," said Aprilia general racing director Jan Witteveen, "We have found that the suspension is too soft and will be working to make it harder so that the riders have more 'feeling' with the bike. We have a lot of work to do in order to find the right combination."

Aprilia 250 riders Fonsi Nieto, Toni Elias and Roberto Locatelli were also present at the Spanish circuit, although the focus of many people's attention, aside from the RS3, was quarter-litre rookie Casey Stoner.

"I wasn't too nervous getting on the bike for the first time today," said the highly-rated Australian youngster, who has gone straight into the category after starring in national 125cc championships in Britain and Spain last season. His team-mate, David Checa, also took part in the test, alongside fellow Spaniard Hector Faubel and German rider Dirk Heidolf.

Some of the main 125cc World Championship contenders came face to face for the first time this year, with Aprilia riders Lucio Cecchinello, Alex de Angelis, Simone Sanna, Gino Borsoi, Steve Jenkner, Max Sabbatani, Pablo Nieto and Angel Rodriguez all completing their first laps of the pre-season alongside Honda rivals Danny Pedrosa and Joan Oliv?. Also present were 125 debutantes Alex Baldolini and Stefano Bianco.



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