Rossi & co head-to-head this weekend

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Valentino Rossi will clash with his major GP rivals on Saturday in the first meeting of all the new four-strokes at the Catalunya circuit near Barcelona.

The reigning world champion though will be playing catch up becasue the circuit was open today when it wasn’t expected to be. That gave rivals like Max Biaggi and Kenny Roberts precious extra track time.

The official two-day test for the MotoGP riders wasn’t due to start until Saturday, but with only a small number of 125s and 250s present, sessions were made available for the MotoGP riders.

Only Honda’s riders didn’t take advantage of the extra time with the likes of Tohru Ukawa, Loris Capirossi and Daijiro Katoh casually strolling around the paddock, and Rossi wasn’t even spotted at the track on Friday afternoon.

Yamaha duo Biaggi and Carlos Checa, Suzuki team-mates Kenny Roberts and Sete Gibernau and Aprilia RS3 rider Regis Laconi all put in dozens of laps and continued through to the track closing at 6pm Spanish time.

There was some confusion among the teams as to how the track was opened for MotoGP riders. Some claimed they had been notified of the available track time last week, while others had heard nothing.

One of those team’s was the British-based Proton outfit, and Jeremy McWilliams wasn’t even due in Barcelona until Friday night while his two-stroke rivals were wracking up the mileage.

No official lap times were released on Friday.

Two brand new Suzuki four-stroke XRE0’s arrived direct from Japan at midday Friday for former world champion Kenny Roberts and Sete Gibernau. The bikes have been modified on feedback given by the Telefonica MoviStar duo in Malaysia and Australia last month.

Alex Criville’s works Yamaha replacement Pere Riba crashed on his first day riding the YZR500. He was given a day at the Almeria circuit on Wednesday to get used to the bike, but crashed after a braking mistake. A team spokesman said: " He is still getting used to carbon brakes. The force he put on them on the middle of the corner is what the other riders use to brake from over 180mph at the end of the straight in Catalunya. "

Aussie teenager Casey Stoner broke his left shoulder blade after crashing his works 250 yesterday. He should be fit for the first race in Suzuka on April 7.

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MCN Staff

By MCN Staff