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The Test: Haga Versus the World

This weekend, at the Suzuka circuit in Japan, the motorcycle Grand Prix championship season begins. Perhaps, as well, an indication of the answer to a question asked by journalists and fans will appear.

Are the top World Superbike riders competitive with the best Grand Prix riders in the 500 class? Everyone has had an opinion about this, and Yamaha’s Noriyuki Haga may help answer the question. Haga, as you probably know, could have taken the World Superbike championship last year had he not tested positive for a banned substance and suffered penalties from the WSB sanctioning body as a result. Haga was in the top tier of WSB riders, if not its best rider, but he had been beaten on occasion by several other WSB riders.

Haga will line up along side the other 500 GP contenders, including Suzuki’s World champion Kenny Roberts, Jr., to race for victory in the first round of the GP season this Sunday. The 500 GP class has loads of talent this year (just see our article on February 22, 2001), and if Haga can run with the leaders in his first race as a full-time GP contender, or even win the race, this question may finally be answered with some conclusiveness.