Proton Team KR riders Nobuatsu Aoki and Kurtis Roberts join their MotoGP competitors on the road to Rio this Sunday, for a race that all hope will be very different from the previous weekend at Assen.

In the far north of Holland, the European summer gave two days of driving rain, leaving everyone short of set-up time for the eventually dry race. Eight days later (Assen is a Saturday race) they line up in the southern hemisphere mid-winter, but expecting better weather nonetheless.

Assen was a tough weekend for the Proton KR pair, with both retiring from the race with different technical problems. With no time for anything but quick-fix solutions, the team were hoping that their previous strong performances at the Brazilian track show that this is a circuit that rewards their special strengths.

"The track has a long back straight, but we usually do better there than we expect. We still hold the fastest two-stroke lap there, on our relatively underpowered three-cylinder 500," said team manager Chuck Aksland.

"It seems that our good handling and chassis have a bigger effect on lap times than the straight-line speed. That should carry through to our current bike," claimed Aksland.

The 2004 V5 MotoGP prototype is still at a relatively early stage of development. A revised engine, now with a longer stroke and changed firing order, is housed in a unique carved-from-solid chassis, using aerospace technology new to motorcycle racing.

"We haven't yet achieved the levels of engine performance and reliability we expected by this stage. Because of the short time between races the machines at Rio will be the same as our Assen bikes," said Aksland.

The Rio race, seventh of 16 MotoGP rounds, takes place at the Nelson Piquet circuit at Jacarepagua, south of Rio de Janeiro's famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. The circuit is made up of fast wide corners, but is notoriously bumpy, putting a stronger than usual emphasis on chassis and suspension integrity.

"The new Dunlop tyre that we found worked well at Catalunya tests was not quite so successful at Assen, but Assen is a very different circuit, and I'm pretty sure that it will be good at Rio," said the Japanese Proton rider Nobuatsu Aoki. "The track has a similar surface to Catalunya, so I believe that the improvement will also be effective there. I'm looking forward to a good weekend."

"At least I've been to this track before, though that was seven years ago on a 250. It helps to know which way the corners go," pointed out Kurtis Roberts, Aoki's team mate. "I need to get a lot more laps than I've been getting, to learn the bike as well as the circuits. At the moment, our efforts are a lot higher than the results. I hope that changes, and we get a finish in the points at Rio."



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