Frenchman Regis Laconi will be present in South Africa for the Axo Aprilia Team next weekend despite suffering a snapped left knee ligament in a freak warm-up accident during the first round of the 2001 World Superbike Championships in Valencia a fortnight ago.

If he were a Premiership football, Regis Laconi's snapped left-knee ligament would keep him out of action for over a month but, thankfully, he is a World Superbike rider instead and the Frenchman has confirmed that despite the freak injury and the resulting lack of mobility he is suffering, he will be riding at Kyalami next weekend in the second round of the 2001 WSBK Championship.

The recently recruited factory Aprilia RSV1000 rider sustained the injury in the Sunday morning warm-up session for the first round of the 2001 Championship in Valencia two weekends ago when a part failure stopped his bike on the circuit forcing the former Red Bull Yamaha 500cc GP rider to walk back to the Spanish pit-lane.

En-route back to the pits, Laconi, who is taking part in his first WSBK campaign, was struck by the Pacific Team Ducati of Swiss privateer Bertrand Stey in what was a very scary incident although both riders were initially thought to be completely unscathed, Stey later discovered that he had injured a few fingers while Laconi, who scored a well deserved fourth in the opening race later that same afternoon, a trip to the hospital in France confirmed the knee injury.

In what was a highly eventful baptism in WSBK competition, Laconi was also involved in the opening lap accident in race two that saw factory Honda rider and fellow MotoGP convert Tadayuki Okada strike the back of Laconi's Aprilia and roll into retirement and although Laconi did not bite the tarmac with his Japanese rider, the damage done to the rear of his bike was enough to put him out of the race almost immediately.

"The ligament injury gives me a few problems," said Laconi recently, who admitted that he might not be feeling 100 per cent around the hot and difficult Kyalami circuit. "I'll soon get over it. I have had a knee-guard made, similar to the ones used by motocross riders, which will allow me to maintain the movements required to ride a bike."

Despite the injury, Laconi will still be considered a major threat next weekend with the awesome RSV1000 taking Superpole and both race victories almost at a canter in the hands of Troy Corser in Valencia, the high altitude and heat of the technical Kyalami circuit will also sap the riders energy and strength but if Laconi shows the same determination he showed at Valencia he will surely be in with a real shout of at least one podium result.