Motorcycling: Fogarty looks for change of fortunes with debut of lightweight machine

The four-times champion Carl Fogarty is hoping that a lighter motorcycle and an improved engine will revive the fortunes of his Foggy Petronas team in the third round of the World Superbike Championship here tomorrow.

His riders, Steve Martin and Garry McCoy, will attempt to gain the team's first podium placings of the year in two races on the 2.49-mile Valencia circuit.

The unique 900cc FP1 bike has a modified crankshaft, camshaft and exhaust system. Titanium parts have also helped to make it seven kilograms lighter.

"This latest specification is more powerful and hopefully more reliable," Fogarty said. "But it's important to remember that this is still a test for us."

Fogarty has endured criticism after failing to win a race in more than two years of competition with his unusual three-cylinder bikes. But his fortunes could turn on the tight and twisty Valencia circuit.

Martin, a 36-year-old Australian, qualified second at the previous World Superbike round in Australia and claimed his first podium position in the series at Valencia last year, on a Ducati. His fellow Australian McCoy, 33, won the 500cc Spanish Grand Prix here in 2000, beating the current MotoGP giants, Sete Gibernau, Alex Barros and Max Biaggi.

"It's still early days for us in terms of the season's development," McCoy said. "But now I now want to be fighting against the faster guys."

"I feel pretty confident," Martin added. "I'm looking forward to continuing the development of the latest engine and seeing how this can improve our performance."

Britain's reigning world champion, James Toseland, will battle to rescue a dismal start to the season. The 24-year-old Yorkshireman is seeking his first win of the year on the factory Xerox Ducati after seeing the Australian Troy Corser take three of the first four races.

Toseland languishes in eighth place in the championship, and his French team-mate Regis Laconi has had to take the fight to Corser's Alstare Suzuki squad.

"I can't afford to make any mistakes for the rest of the year," Toseland admitted. "As far as riding and my confidence goes, I feel good and just want to get back out there. Lap times and everything else are all there, they just need to come together now."

* The leading British Superbike contender, James Haydon, has given up his place in the Airwaves-Ducati team to Spain's Gregorio Lavilla, who will try to win his first race of the season at Mallory Park, Leicestershire, tomorrow. Lavilla, 30, deputised for the first two rounds of the season while Haydon was injured, but now holds second place in the points table after finishing on the podium in all four races so far.