The Yamaha Belgarda World Supersport team has begun its preparations for the 2004 campaign in Spain, including giving new signing Fabien Foret his first taste of the YZF-R6 he will pilot next season.

The 30-year old Frenchman adapted to his new mount quicker than many had expected, and was soon recording times not far from the outright pace being set at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo by 2004 team-mate Jurgen van den Goorbergh. Foret's best lap was clocked at 1min 39.05secs, only just shy of the pace-setting 1min 39.00secs recorded by the Dutchman, who also saw off the challenge of various Honda, Suzuki and Ducati-mounted rivals.

"We are very happy that Foret has adapted so quickly to the YZF-R6," team boss Massimo Meregalli commented, "but we are also happy that van den Goorbergh has lapped strongly too. We now have the knowledge and experience of two riders with many years of competition at world level."

The first day of testing in Valencia was largely organised for the benefit of Pirelli, which wanted to test several compounds destined for the 2004 WSS season. The Italian manufacturer will be the only permitted supplier to the series next year, and wanted to see how its products matched up on a variety of machinery. The pace shown by the two Belgarda bikes bodes well for both Foret and van den Goorbergh, although no-one at the Italian team will be getting too excited by early test results.

Neither rider got a full day on the track, as overnight rain continued to keep the track wet until after lunch. Foret's main aim was to tune the YZF-R6 to his own personal liking, while van den Goorbergh ran with important developments on his machine, including a revised version of the electronic injection system.

"This first day as a Yamaha pilot has confirmed in full my hopes for 2004," a satisfied Foret reported, "The YZF-R6 is very different to the Honda that I rode in 2002 and also to the Kawasaki I had last season. The chassis already gives me more confidence, although now I must work on the suspension in order to adapt it to my style of riding.

"Today, I have not really watched the speedometer, as my objective was not to go quickly but to try and get the bike suited to my style."

Foret, who won the WSS championship in 2002, speaks only a few words of Italian, but was able to converse with his new technical crew in the shared language of English.

"I do not know the technical terms in Italian and, in order not to cause confusion, it is better for now that we speak English for the next few months," he smiled, "However, I promise to learn the language of the team.

"It has already hit me what a pleasant atmosphere there is within this team - they all work with great professionalism, but the climate is calm and relaxed."

Leading performances - Valencia (11 November):

van den Goorbergh HOL Yamaha 1min 39.00secsForet FRA Yamaha 1min 39.05secsMuggeridge AUS Honda 1min 39.50secsChambon FRA Suzuki 1min 39.50secsParkes AUS Honda 1min 40.00secsFabrizio ITA Suzuki 1min 40.4secsLanzi ITA Ducati 1min 40.70secsCruciani ITA Kawasaki 1min 42.20secs



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