Burning Rubber: Veazey does it

Middlesbrough's Paul Veazey is feeling confident about the season ahead after getting his first taste of the new Yamaha R1 last week.

Middlesbrough's Paul Veazey is feeling confident about the season ahead after getting his first taste of the new Yamaha R1 last week.

The 20-year-old, who this year joins the ever-expanding Krystal Racing Space Air squad after a disasterous 2006 on a Kawasaki, gave the brand new machine its shakedown at Mallory Park on Wednesday.

And on Thursday, Veazey and team-mate Lee Jackson headed across to Cadwell Park for their first full test ahead of the season opener of the National Superstock Championship at Brands Hatch on Easter Monday.

Donning brand new retro-design blue leathers, the youngster has emerged for 2007 fitter than ever, and is determined to make a big impression in what will be his second season in the fiercely contested championship.

"I love the bike, it's even better than I thought it was going to be," he revealed. "It's a completely different bike to the Kawasaki which I've been riding for the last couple of years, and it just feels very nice.

"I'd ridden an R1 once in a test with the team last year, but it was a different bike. The 07 model is totally new so we had to get out there and see what it was like and if there were any problems.

"It seems great. The engine is strong, it's a fast bike, it turns in really well and everything seems to be there with it.

"It's been a good start to the pre-season testing so I'm feeling pretty confident at the moment."

Veazey is quick to admit he still has a way to go before he finds the pace of his more experienced team-mate Jackson, who won the title in 2005 and is believed to be perhaps the best Yamaha man in the paddock.

"My times weren't up there with Lee's but I've probably got the best teacher around," he explained. "I was about three or four seconds down on his times but I'll get that back I'm sure. Lee is too good sometimes, he just jumped on the thing, went out and was straight on it.

"I'm pretty sure once I've had some more track time I'll be able to get closer to his times. It's a whole new machine to me and it is bound to take time to get to grips with it. At the moment I'm just watching everything Lee does and asking his advice on everything."

Veazey, who finished as runner up in the National Superstock Cup in 2006, before struggling last season with the 06 Kawasaki, is convinced this is going to be his best year to date. "I've finally got off the Kwak and it feels fantastic!" he joked.

"I've been working a lot harder on my fitness over the winter so I'm ready for it all this year. I can't bear another season like 2006 when I was stuck with a bike which just didn't work for anyone.

"Fingers crossed I'll be in fighting form from the start and I can make a real good impression as the season rolls on."

Thommo confident

Harrogate's James Thompson will today line up for his first two races of the year as the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) opens its 2007 account at Curibita in Brazil this afternoon.

The 33-year-old has gone back to the familiarity of the rhubarb-coloured N Technology Alfa Romeo after a year with SEAT, and hopes this will be the year he can wrestle the crown from double WTCC champ, Brit Andy Priaulx.

The two-times BTCC champion is convinced this could be his year. "I know how successful N Technology has been so far, so I hope I can add to the trophy cabinet," he chuckled.

"Curibita was OK for me last year but I can definitely do better. I'm looking forward to racing again after the winter break and scoring as many points as possible for the team."

This year's championship sees a number of changes, including a rolling start to race one while race two remains a standing start with a reversed grid.

But Jimmy believes he and Alfa Romeo have unfinished business in the World Touring Car Championship, and he will be going all out to score a good result.

"The team are determined to fight for the championship this season and that is exactly what I want to do" he added. "We have unfinished business here and it's great to be back to take on the challenge again."

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