Former champion Carl Fogarty predicts that Neil Hodgson will take the 2003 world superbike title. The series starts at Valencia this weekend.

Former champion Carl Fogarty predicts that Neil Hodgson will take the 2003 world superbike title. The series starts at Valencia this weekend.

"It's between Hodgson and his teammate ... and (Ruben) Xaus is too inconsistent," Fogarty told . "They are the only full factory team out there so it's harder for Hodgson to lose than win."

Hodgson finished third in the world title race last year behind champion Colin Edwards and 2001 winner Troy Bayliss. Bayliss and Edwards have moved to the MotoGP championship.

Fogarty is entering his team, Foggy Petronas, this year. "Most people won't expect us to be competitive, although they all want us to be because of the state of the championship, but I think we'll surprise a few people and get in the top 10, maybe top six," he said. "I may be getting carried away, but with a bit of luck it could happen.

"I want to win straight away but I know it's not possible. This is something new and you have to walk before you can run. We've got to build on what happens in that first race and if the result is good, it'll show that the gap to the top guys is not as big as we thought."

Fogarty has recruited 1996 world champion Troy Corser and young Briton James Haydon.

Hodgson said he was feeling relaxed ahead of the first race. “I’m really looking forward to the weekend now because I had a really good test last week and that took a lot of the pressure off me.

“The Valencia track has not been one of my favourites in the past but as I finally got to know it well at the weekend, I feel a lot more at home on it now. The Ducati 999 is a big improvement on my last year’s bike and I feel really comfortable with it and confident about the season ahead,” said Hodgson.

Xaus, who finished sixth overall in last year’s championship, starts his third season with the factory Ducati SBK squad. “The year ahead is one of the most difficult tracks for me, because it is the way the corners are, they are very tight, with hard braking and changes in direction, not long and fast corners as I like,” he said.

“It’s my home race however and with the new Ducati 999 I’m enjoying it much more. The 999 seat is wider than the 998 and it’s easier to move the bike around so I feel more comfortable.”

The ‘Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana’ is 25 km from Valencia along the motorway to Madrid and can accommodate over 110 000 spectators surrounding the 4,005 km track. Valencia has many slow turns, mainly left-handers and a long pit straight measuring almost 900 m.

Original article from Car