Ducati began preparations for its twin world championship assault in 2003, by debuting both its new MotoGP contender and WSBK challenger at the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello.

While Neil Hodgson was climbing aboard the WSBK version of the 999, former works superbike rider - and 2001 world champion - Troy Bayliss was making the switch to the MotoGP machine he will ride next year.

One week after the final, frantic, WSBK round at Imola, the 33-year old Australian completed 30 laps on the new Ducati prototype, which will make its debut next year, and pronounced himself enthusiastic and satisfied with the session.

"It's a completely new toy!" Bayliss declared, "The last few months I've been seeing the bike, and I've wanted to get on it for a long time. It took a while before we got going this morning because it was so foggy and the track was quite wet, and we didn't really start until after lunch.

"We know we've got a great big job ahead of us, but I've enjoyed what we've done so far and we're making pretty good progress already. That's why we've started a week after Imola - we know we've got a lot of work ahead of us and that's what we're doing. We've got plenty of tests before the racing starts, but we're looking forward to it.

Asked to compare his 2002 and 2003 mounts, the Australian cracked one of his trademark smiles...

"This is not my superbike, for sure!" he said, "It's very different - much lighter and more powerful. There is nothing from the Superbike on this, so we've just got to start and learn everything again. Vito has already been testing on it - and he's done a good job - but, basically, I have to start from scratch and get ready for MotoGP."



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