The 2003 MotoGP World Championship was always going to be a learning year for the Ducati Marlboro Team, but it's turned out to be some apprenticeship...

Although the Bologna factory had been out of GP racing for more than three decades before returning last spring, it has already won its first GP, taken three pole positions and scored seven podium finishes - all this despite the team having to compete at many racetracks of which it has no previous knowledge.

Happily, this weekend's Pacific GP is the last event that the team goes into 'blind'. Loris Capirossi may have raced at Motegi since it joined the series calendar in 1999, but most of his team colleagues, including Troy Bayliss, have never seen the track before.

"We are quite happy that this is the last track of the season that we don't know," admitted technical director Corrado Cecchinelli, who has already tested with his crew at the three season-ending GP venues - Sepang, Phillip Island and Valencia. "We have already achieved some good results at circuits that are new to us, but the less you know about a track, the harder it is for the riders and everyone else in the team, and however well you work during the weekend, you still lack something.

"But we always knew it would be like this in our first MotoGP season, and we are enjoying discovering new circuits so that we can gather data and information for next season. In theory Motegi should be good for us," the Italian concluded.

Ducati Marlboro Team director Livio Suppo is also confident that his riders can once again perform in Japan.

"Last year Loris rode an unbelievable race at Motegi, making the podium even though he was on a two-stroke, so he obviously goes well there," enthused Suppo. "And he really enjoyed getting third in our first race at Suzuka, so we go to Motegi with the added motivation of repeating or improving upon that result. It's always a special emotion for us at Ducati if we can achieve good results in Japan.

"The weekend will be another challenge for Troy because this is another racetrack that he's never seen, but then again he's proved on many occasions that new tracks aren't a problem for him," he added. "On the positive side, Motegi will complete his knowledge of current MotoGP tracks because he already knows the tracks which host the final three GPs of the season."

After Sunday's race the paddock heads to Malaysia for the middle event of the three back-to-back 'flyaway' GPs. The following weekend the action moves to Phillip Island in Australia, before the circus returns to its European heartland for the season-ending Valencia GP on November 2.



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