After a brief 'shake-down' session which took place at the factory's private circuit in Japan in January, Suzuki finally let its new XREO prototype onto the track for a full test in the hands of its two official riders, Kenny Roberts and Sete Gibernau, in Sepang today. The Telefonica Movistar Suzuki team is scheduled to stay at the track until Friday, for what promises to be a gruelling few days considering the intense heat and humidity. However, the Malaysian circuit also offers the riders the chance to test the 990cc bike at some of the highest speed sections of tarmac in MotoGP.

The project had initially been earmarked for a 2003 entry into the MotoGP World Championship, but Suzuki decided eventually to bring the date forward by a year. Former World Champion Kenny Roberts remarked, "I think everybody has smiles on their faces, we're happy with our position and we know what challenges lie ahead. We asked Suzuki for this opportunity and we know we'll have some rough times at the beginning, but I am happy with the situation and the team are motivated, and that's a big issue."

Telefonica Movistar Suzuki Team Manager, Garry Taylor, was clearly very pleased with the new machine, "It sounds great. It's a good looking bike and a lot of effort and time has gone into it. It is very early stages yet and we're not trying to do good times, just getting the riders comfortable and getting the bike from drawing board to track." Also present at the test were Akira Ryo and Yukio Kagayama, the two riders who will assist in the bike's development by running the prototype in the Japanese National Championships this year.

Kawasaki made a surprise appearance at Sepang, following up their announcement last week that they aim to contest some of the later MotoGP races this year. Their prototype four-stroke machine was being put through its paces by Japan's Akira Yanagawa, who will spend the majority of 2002 developing the bike as the official test rider.



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