Honda riders take a tumble in testing

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The Independent Online

The Japanese riders Tohru Ukawa and Daijiro Katoh both avoided injury after crashing during the second day of Honda's three-day testing session here yesterday.

Ukawa joined his Italian team-mate, Valentino Rossi, on Honda's new four-stroke machine but the Japanese rider fell from the 990cc RC211V after being blown off by high winds. "I got caught by the strong wind at the end of the pit straight and lost the ideal line and went on to the grass," Ukawa explained.

Katoh, riding Honda's NSR500 two-stroke, slid off at the hairpin but also escaped injury. "I lost grip and the bike slid away from me, without damage to myself or the bike," he said. "In general I'm satisfied with what we did today." Rossi bettered his time of Wednesday when he set a new lap record.

The Dutchman Jurgen van der Goorbergh continued his Bridgestone tyre testing on the NSR500. He said: "I'm good with the bike but I need more testing to fully understand it. Everything is going well but I don't want to break any records, just learn how to ride this bike."

Meanwhile, Fabrizio Meoni will shortly be returning to Africa to defend his Paris-Dakar rally motorcycling title, but will face stiff competition from his fellow KTM riders when the 24th running of the race gets under way in Paris on 28 December.

KTM's team leader, Heinz Kinigadner, is determined that at least one of the Austrian company's riders, spread over four major teams, will reach Senegal first.

"KTM won the Dakar last year and we want to keep the trophy," he said. "It is for us the most important race of the year."

One of Meoni's main rivals will be his team-mate, the Frenchman Richard Sainct, who aims to add to his wins in 1999 and 2000. "I'm trained and my motorbike is perfect," he said. "My aim is to win my third Dakar. But the desert is so unpredictable and it never forgives a mistake."