It was at Valencia exactly one year ago that the Desmosedici MotoGP bike broke cover for the first time - Troy Bayliss and test rider Vittoriano Guareschi giving the machine its public debut in front of 120,000 appreciative fans.

Since then the machine's achievements have delighted race fans around the world, the V4's fabulous performance and stunning exhaust note adding a whole new dimension to GP racing.

Of course, Ducati knows full well that 2003 is just the beginning of its Grand Prix effort and while Bayliss and Loris Capirossi have been wowing race fans with the bright red V4, research and development have continued apace in the factory's Bologna race department. And the team begins its own preparations for 2004 on Tuesday November 4... That's right - Bayliss, Capirossi and the rest of the crew get one day off between the end of their 2003 season and the start of 2004 preseason tests!

"This has been an amazing year for us, we can hardly believe that it's already almost over," smiled Ducati Marlboro team director Livio Suppo. "We've enjoyed some very high emotions over the past seven months which have helped the season to go by very quickly. One win, eight podiums and three pole positions is an incredible achievement in our first year, plus we've taken second in the Constructors' World Championship and Loris has secured fourth in the Riders' World Championship. Such results were just a dream to us this time last year.

"It's a pity that Troy may lose the fifth place in the championship that he held for so long, but he's still had a great debut season in MotoGP," he added, referring to the consequences of the Australian's spectacular exit at Phillip Island. "Let's hope we can celebrate a great year with two impressive results at Valencia. And we won't be resting on our laurels once the racing is over - we start testing for next year on Tuesday!"

While the team is already looking towards next year, it must now focus its attentions on achieving the best-possible performance at the tricky, slow-speed Valencia venue.

"Valencia is a very strange track," explained technical director Corrado Cecchinelli. "It combines a very twisty stop-and-go section with a long main straight. The straight isn't one of the fastest in GP racing, because the preceding corner is very slow, but it is long.

"Engine rideability and traction are the crucial performance factors at Valencia. And there are some very tricky sections - like the final fast left, which riders tackle with full throttle and very little load on the rear tyre as they crest the brow of the hill.

"We don't plan to alter the engine mapping for such a tight and slow circuit - we prefer that our riders stay familiar with the bike's behaviour from one track to another, so they know exactly how it reacts," he added. "We tested at Valencia last November but the bike has changed a lot since then, so I don't think that data will be of much use this weekend. But at least both our riders have ridden the bike at this track, so we're not going into it blind as we have done at places like Motegi and Rio."

First qualifying for the Valencia GP takes place on Friday.



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