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Friday, 1 December, 2000, 12:18 GMT
Haga optimistic after 500cc switch
Noriyuki Haga
Haga felt he could have won the Superbike title
Japanese bike racer Noriyuki Haga believes he can win the first 500cc Grand Prix next season, despite initially not wanting to race in the category.

Haga is moving over to the MotoGP World Championship in 2001 at the behest of his Yamaha team, which has pulled out of the Superbike series in which he raced this year.

The team had to put pressure on Haga to make the move, as he believes he could have won the Superbike World Championship.

But after early tests aboard his Yamaha 500cc machine, Haga is more confident about his chances.

Noriyuki Haga
Haga has high hopes of his debut season in 500cc

"I believe I can win the first race next year," he said, "especially as testing has gone so well."

Haga finished second in the Superbike series last year, despite being docked points and being handed a suspension following a positive test for the banned drug ephedrine.

He believed he could go one better in 2001 and was not happy about Yamaha's plans to quit World Superbikes and race in MotoGP.

The Japanese manufacturer has built a 500cc V4 engine for 2001 and is preparing a four-stroke engine for 2002, when the rules are changing to allow that type of engine.

Wariness

Haga's reluctance was increased because Yamaha uses Michelin tyres in the 500cc series.

He had been used to Dunlops in Superbikes and was wary of the Michelins, which he did not like when he had used them before.

After testing them, though, he is now confident he can be competitive from the very first race in motorcycling's blue riband category.

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