The demanding schedule of four races in five weeks face Fuchs Kawasaki riders Andrew Pitt and Garry McCoy as they prepare for this week's South American adventure at the Rio Grand Prix, but both know that there is a reward waiting for them at the end of the impending 'flyaway' tour.

This weekend's Rio race is round twelve of the MotoGP World Championship and, traditionally, takes place on Saturday rather than the more usual Sunday. It is the first of a series of multi-continent events that will take the Kawasaki squad from South America to the Far East but, while they face a long, tough trip working out of packing crates and away from their traditional European bases, Pitt and McCoy know that home comforts await at the final flyaway race, as Phillip Island on 19 October presents the once-a-year opportunity of racing before family, friends and home fans.

The two Australians will face vastly different challenges at Rio as they try to reverse the disappointment of the recent Portuguese GP. As with the trip to Estoril, the Kawasaki team goes to Rio for the first time with no data or base settings to work from in the first development year of the 990cc ZX-RR MotoGP machine.

Grand Prix rookie Pitt also has another new track and culture to learn as he prepares for his Brazilian debut, but the 2001 Supersport world championship has proved to be a fast learner in his first season aboard the prototype Ninja ZX-RR.

"I'll be in Rio a few days early to try and shake off the jet lag and have a look around and get the feel of the place," he revealed, "I've never been there before, either as a racer or a tourist, so I'll probably try and get on a scooter and do some laps and work out which way the corners go.

"First practice on Friday morning will be a learning session for me, as I know the track will look a lot different at 300kph on the ZX-RR, but I'm looking forward to the challenge. I learn tracks pretty quick and, hopefully, we can find a race set-up that gives us a chance of moving forward - running at the back is no fun."

McCoy, meanwhile, is a Rio regular and is familiar with the unpredictable conditions, both weather and track, that can be part of the racing equation in Brazil. While dismayed to be a non-finisher at the recent Portuguese race, the resilient Australian is hoping that the wider and faster Nelson Piquet Circuit will provide the opportunity to maximise the performance of the ZX-RR.

"Every time I go back to Rio, the track seems like its torn up more than the last time," he observed, "Maybe we get spoilt in Europe with mostly smooth tracks, but it can be pretty wild over the bumps, a little like a motocross track.

The Rio circuit has a couple of unusual features apart from its bumpy and abrasive surface. The road course is combined with an Indy car oval track and there are two cross-over points for the car circuit. Then there are the two parallel straights, the shorter of which contains the start-finish line and pit garages, while the super-fast 1000 metre main straight rockets its way past a huge grandstand that provides a panoramic view of the whole complex.

"I know the track as a rider, but the tough part is that, unlike most of the other factory teams, Kawasaki is going there for the first time without data from previous races. There are some changes of direction that might be hard on us, but also there are some faster corners and a long straight - Kawasaki has been tweaking our motors recently, so that should help.

"It can also be either hot or raining and, tyre-wise, Dunlop has made some positive progress for both conditions. However, if I had to pick right now, I guess a wet race might be a little better for the ZX-RR at this stage."

 

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