After a long winter break, the Camel Pramac Pons team are Suzuka eagerly awaiting the starting gun that signifies the beginning of the 2003 MotoGP World Championship.

Recent practice sessions have given much cause for optimism in the Camel camp, with both Max Biaggi and Tohru Ukawa regularly among the quickest in pre-season testing.

This has reinforced the opinion that Sito Pons' team will be fighting for the both the riders and manufacturers World titles.

"We are about to enter into a new challenge which we face with passion and optimism," stated the ever-enthusiastic Pons. "I think that it has been clearly demonstrated in recent tests that we are ready for the fight and that our riders will be battling for the lead - not just here in Suzuka - but also in the other circuits in the Championship."

Tohru Ukawa arrives at the team after taking his first MotoGP victory last season with Repsol Honda, and the #11 is aiming to impress his home fans on his debut with the Pons team this Sunday.

"I think we are ready to be competitive right from the start of the championship and I hope not to have any physical after-effects from the crash I suffered in the recent IRTA Test," said Ukawa, who was Valentino Rossi's nearest rival at the Suzuka test in which he injured his knee and wrist on Monday.

"I will do everything possible to start the World Championship with a good result. Suzuka is obviously a special circuit for me. I scored four podium finishes here in the 250cc category and I hope to be able to demonstrate our true potential here this season," added Tohru.

Max Biaggi will be making his competition debut on the title-winning RCV this weekend at Suzuka - the circuit where he made a spectacular 500cc debut in 1998 with a brilliant victory.

However, Biaggi has been hindered by not being among the elite group of official HRC riders, which numbers Rossi, Hayden, Ukawa and Kato. As such he's riding modified 2002 spec machinery and has suffered as a result of not having access to the latest parts and developments on the V5.

"We still have not fixed the problem which has been hindering our progress all preseason, although I hope to find a solution before the race," said Biaggi, who's been troubled by unspecified Clutch problems rumoured to unsettle the bike under braking.

"There are six or seven riders who are very close and we must continue to work to be competitive," explained the Roman. "We will continue to work the way we have and, if possible, test some new parts to improve the bike which, in its base form, is very good although it has a margin for improvement which we must exploit to the maximum."

"We still have a lot to learn about the RC211V, but those four races, including the two grand prix victories [with Alex Barros] last year and the testing we have done since with Max and Tohru have been a massive help," said Technical Director Antonio Cobas. "It looks like being a very competitive year for all the teams and there is no better place to start the Championship than at Suzuka both for the technical staff and the riders."