Jan 22, 2003
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<BR>From a press release issued by Yamaha Belgarda:<BR><BR>Big Changes At Yamaha Belgarda<BR><BR>Amsterdam, Netherlands<BR>22/1/2003<BR><BR>Team Yamaha Belgarda have signed MotoGP star Jurgen van den Goorbergh to spearhead their 2003 Supersport World Championship campaign. The 33-year-old Dutchman attended last weekend's team test in Valencia, Spain, where he showed great promise aboard the new 2003 YZF-R6.<BR><BR>The good news of Jurgen's arrival comes at a sad time for the team as they learn of the departure of riders Paolo Casoli and Jamie Whitham, who will both be retiring from racing for health reasons.<BR><BR>Casoli has spent the winter months convalescing from a cranial trauma he sustained in a crash while testing last November. This week a full neurological examination by Professor Carlo Bollini at the Bellaria Hospital in Bologna has shown the 37-year-old Italian is completely over the trauma but retains some mild tissue damage (anencephaly) which, in the case of another crash, could lead to more serious complications. Casoli, who in all other respects can lead a normal, healthy life, has chosen to follow the advice of his doctors and retire from racing. <BR><BR>"The doctors have been very honest, they told me that if I crashed again I could have big problems and ruin my future; this is too much of a risk that I don't feel like taking," explained Casoli. "I am very sad to leave in this way after 20 years of racing at the highest level. In 2003 I would have had a very fast Yamaha, new tyres and the ambition to win the Supersport World Championship. I couldn't wait to face this challenge. But I have to think about my family, too, they are my main reason for life. I have a son, a wife and wonderful parents who would have worried too much knowing the risks I was taking. So I prefer to stop."<BR><BR>By an unlucky twist of fate, Paolo's team-mate Jamie Whitham, another 20-year veteran of racing, has also seen his career cut short by health concerns: This time glaucoma of the left eye. At the end of last season he first encountered slight vision difficulties and sought medical treatment, though the full impact of the problem has only now become evident. Jamie maintains near normal vision for daily activities but the impairment becomes more acute during the stresses of top-level competitive racing and this has led to his decision to retire. Doctors have suggested that the cause of the problem may be the chemotherapy treatment that Whitham received in 1995 after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease - a form of lymphatic cancer, from which he made a full recovery.<BR><BR>"I was aware of this problem at the end of last season and discussed it with the team," said Whitham. "I didn't notice it again during the first two winter tests when we were in the wet and riding quite slow, but it became a problem while I was testing at full speed in the dry last weekend. I just can't give that last 10% with any confidence - and confidence is what racing is all about. I wouldn't want to put myself or anyone else in danger, plus the guys at Belgarda are more like a family than a team and they deserve to have a rider who is 100% fit. I know the bike is going to be good - good enough to win the championship - so it's important that they have the best possible rider. It's been a really hard decision to make - I've been racing all my life and all my friends are in racing. I know I've got be philosophical but I'm really going to miss it."<BR><BR>Claudio Consonni, Yamaha Belgarda's racing director, admitted to feelings of both pleasure and pain by the developments: "I feel split down the middle today. I feel very sad to see two such great riders and friends as Paolo and Jamie leave. We are very close to them both and hope they will remain part of the Belgarda extended family. On the one hand it‘s very exciting for us to have signed Jurgen and I'm sure he will be give us a great chance at the title this year. He has the right skill and mentality and we are very optimistic."<BR><BR>Asked about his move from MotoGP to Supersport, Jurgen had the following to say: "After MotoGP I think World Supersport is the most important and competitive race class, where all major manufacturers are represented. I have already tested the new R6 and have a very positive feeling for both the bike and the team. It can't be easy for such a close team to lose both riders at once, I'm aware I have a big gap to fill and certainly hope I can meet the challenge." Together with his army of enthusiastic Dutch race fans, Jurgen will be supported in his challenge of the 2003 Supersport World Championship title by Yamaha Motor Netherlands.<BR><BR>Yamaha Belgarda will test with 24-year-old Italian, Simone Sanna, on the 26th and 27th of January in Valencia. The ex-GP125 rider has already had trials on World Superbike machinery this past winter with impressive results.<BR><BR>Jurgen van den Goorbergh profile<BR>Since making his grand prix debut in the 1991 250cc French Grand Prix, Jurgen van den Goorbergh has finished the top privateer in the 250cc and 500cc World Championships on four occasions. After accomplishing this accolade for two consecutive seasons in the 250cc class, he switched to the 500s in 1997 and subsequently achieved two pole position qualifications (Barcelona and Brno in 1999) and has started from the front row of the grid a total of seven times. For last year's MotoGP season the Dutchman achieved his first full factory ride and despite season-long difficulties with tyre development, he finished inside the top ten on four occasions, qualified on the front row in Australia and finished an equal career best fifth at the same race. Van den Goorbergh's extensive racing history and experience in bike development are expected to give Yamaha's new YZF-R6 every opportunity for success in the coming season.<BR><BR>Jurgen van den Goorbergh biography<BR>Date of Birth: 29 December 1969 <BR>Place of Birth: Breda, Holland<BR>Resides: Monaco<BR>Marital Status: Married to Misha<BR>Height/Weight: 1.74m / 65kg<BR>Hobbies: Training (cycling, running, weights), skiing, enduro, trials<BR>Favourite Circuits: Suzuka, Phillip Island, Brno<BR>First Race: 1988 Yamaha TZR250 Cup Race<BR>GP Debut: 1991 French Grand Prix 250cc<BR><BR>Career<BR>2003: Yamaha Belgarda World Supersport Team – YZF-R6<BR>2002: MotoGP World Championship – 13th, 5th place in Phillip Australia<BR>2001: World 500cc Championship – 13th <BR>2000: World 500cc Championship – 13th <BR>Best Privateer<BR>1999: World 500cc Championship – 16th <BR>Qualified on pole position in Barcelona & Brno<BR>1998: World 500cc Championship – 15th<BR>Best Privateer<BR>1997: World 500cc Championship –19th<BR>1996: World 125cc Championship – 11th <BR>Best Privateer<BR>1994: World 250cc Championship – 17th <BR>World 250cc Championship – 12th<BR>Best Privateer<BR>1993: World 250cc Championship – 32nd <BR>1992: World 250cc Championship – 25th <BR>1991: First GP 250cc France – 18th <BR>Dutch Championship 250cc – 1st <BR>European Championship 250cc – 3rd <BR>1990: Dutch Championship 250cc – 2nd (Yamaha)<BR>European Championship 250cc – 5th <BR>1989: Dutch Championship 250cc – third (Yamaha)<BR>Benelux Championship 250cc – 1st <BR>1988: First race: Yamaha TZR Cup – 3rd <BR>1986: Started race training with a RD350cc<BR>1973: First ride in trials (aged four)<BR>