This Wednesday (December 10) sees new D'Antin Ducati riders' Neil Hodgson and Ruben Xaus make their debuts on the 2003 spec Demosedicis they will ride in next year's MotoGP world championship.

For Xaus, the three-day Valencia test will have extra significance since, unlike his team-mate, the Spaniard has never ridden in the 500cc/MotoGP class before - or experienced Ducati's MotoGP prototype (Hodgson is rumoured to have briefly ridden an early version).

"It will be an important test because I'll start working on my new bike and getting to know my new team," confirmed Ruben, runner-up to Hodgson in the 2003 WSBK championship. "The most important thing at this stage is finding a good feeling with my new bike and team. I won't be thinking too much about lap times this first time.

"Riding a Desmosedici will no doubt be a very interesting and exciting experience, but I don't want to get overexcited before even starting. I know there's going to be a lot of work to do and I want to keep my feet on the ground," he added.

Xaus has a reputation as a frightening fast - but often frustratingly inconsistent - rider, contrasting sharply with the silky smooth and normally solid Hodgson: The one thing Ruben won't want to do is start his MotoGP career in the gravel trap.

However, while opinion is divided, many feel that should Xaus adapt to - and stay on - his V4, his natural speed will mean he can challenge the best MotoGP can offer.

As such, expect plenty of 'friendly' rivalry between Xaus and Hodgson from the word go, as each seeks to establish himself within Luis D'Antin's team. Consistency, feedback, 'reasonable' lap times and - most importantly - no big crashes are sure to impress at the first test.



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