At Le Mans
After the withdrawal of his teammate, Olivier Jacque, due to an injury sustained in Shanghai two weeks ago, Randy de Puniet will be joined this weekend by Kawasaki World Superbike rider, Fonsi Nieto, for the forthcoming Alice Grand Prix of France race at Le Mans.
The former 250cc world championship sparring partners will join together, leading their assault on the world famous, 4.18km French circuit on the ever-evolving Kawasaki 800cc Ninja ZX-RR. Former 250cc world championship racer, Fonsi Nieto, will ride as a temporary replacement for the injured Olivier Jacque, who suffered a deep laceration to his right arm at Shanghai.
It will be an exciting but challenging weekend for the 28-year-old Spaniard whose first ride of the ZX-RR will be during this Friday's free practice session. However, he was extremely successful in the 250cc series, which included a win in the French Grand Prix in 2002, so knows the Le Mans Bugatti circuit well. As a result, the team are optimistic he will soon get up to speed on what will be his first MotoGP ride.
The Kawasaki squad are hoping for a successful weekend while Jacque, undergoing intensive physiotherapy for his injuries, aims to be back in action for the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello in a fortnight's time.
“I am so excited to be riding for the Kawasaki Racing Team this weekend and can only thank Kawasaki, as they have treated me so well since I became one of their riders two years ago. However, it's a shame I come here as a replacement for Olivier as I have huge respect for him. No rider wants to act as a replacement, as none of us want to be replaced, but these things happen”, said Nieto.
“I am quite familiar with Le Mans and, even if it is a ‘stop-and-go' track, it's not a difficult one. I like it. I won there in 2002, when I was riding in 250cc, but I am aware that it's going to be different this time. I am not in 250cc anymore and I had to change my riding style when I moved to the Superbikes. I don't know what it's going to be like on a MotoGP bike but it's certainly going to be a great experience for me! New category, new bike, new tyres… I will have to get used to them all as quickly as I can although, realistically, it will be almost impossible to learn it all in just two days of practice. Still, I am really looking forward to trying the Ninja ZX-RR 800cc as I have heard a lot about it and many people say riding it is similar to riding a 250. Anyway, we will be busy and I will work as hard as I can for the team throughout the weekend, with the target of finishing the race. These people are trusting me and I will try my best not to let them down.”
Michael Bartholemy added : "We wanted to give Olivier as much time as possible to recover from his injuries, which is why we have waited until now to make the decision not to run him at Le Mans. He wants to race but it's not physically possible for him to do so because the scar is still too fragile and this is limiting the mobility in his arm. So, he won't race in France but, instead, will focus on regaining full fitness for Mugello. Obviously, knowing Olivier might not be fit to race, we've spent some time looking at possible replacement riders and, to be honest, there really was only one option. Fonsi is already part of the Kawasaki family and, although he'll be making his MotoGP debut this weekend, he is certainly no stranger to the Grand Prix paddock or the circuit. Sure, coming in cold with no time to test the bike before Friday's opening practice session will be tough but I'm confident he will adapt quickly to the demands of competing in motorcycle racing's premier class and I hope that he will enjoy racing Kawasaki's Ninja ZX-RR at Le Mans."