Regis Laconi and James Toseland returned to testing duties for Ducati Fila at the Phillip Island circuit in Australia on the first of a three-day pre-season session.

Strong winds in the afternoon prevented any improvement from being made on the morning's times, when warm conditions prevailed at the Melbourne venue. Sharing the track with the Foggy Petronas team, Laconi completed 75 laps and Toseland 71, putting in a considerable amount of mileage around the spectacular 4.448km circuit.

"That wasn't too bad for first time out," Laconi declared, "but it was very windy and hard to ride today. We're working on the bike and making changes all the time and the front feels really good. It's been a long time since I was last on the 999, and I'm sure we can get the times down more tomorrow."

Both riders concentrated on getting back into the racing groove for the new season, which starts in just over six weeks' time. The 999 bikes used in Australia were still in 2003 spec, but the Ducati Fila engineers were also able to experiment with a new clutch.

"I felt a bit rusty out there this morning," Toseland admitted, "It's so fast around here compared to Valencia, which was the last time I rode a bike, and, by the time I got going, it was blowing a force nine gale! My 999 felt a lot better than [it did at] Valencia and, although it's difficult to get it to turn in with the conditions, I'm pretty happy with the way things are going."

The first day of testing also focused on getting to grips with the new Pirelli tyres, which will be used by all competitors in this year's World Superbike championship. Ugo Forner, Pirelli's motorcycle director, was on hand to oversee the development work.

Ducati's day was soured slightly when Lorenzo Lanzi crashed out on the Ducati 749R Supersport. The Italian, who was lapping on track with the Ducati and Petronas Superbikes, flew off on oil deposited by Troy Corser's Petronas).

By then, Lanzi had completed a total of 17 laps, recording a best time of 1min 38.39secs. The bike was repaired in the afternoon, but the Italian - who was unhurt in the spill - was only able to complete a few more laps due to the windy conditions.



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