As West replaces Olivier Jacque
The Kawasaki Racing Team confirmed today that Anthony West has accepted a ride on the factory Ninja ZX-RR for the rest of the 2007 MotoGP season.
The 25-year-old Australian rider fills the void created by the decision for Olivier Jacque
to move permanently to the role of test and development rider for the team.
After a number of crashes, which have resulted in numerous injuries and missed races, Jacque has been feeling increasingly uneasy about continuing in the series. Furthermore, Kawasaki's regular test rider, Naoki Matsudo, is out of action due to injuries sustained earlier this year. Therefore, the decision was made for Jacque, a former 250cc world champion, to return to full-time testing and development: an area where his skill and experience are proven and desperately needed.
Much of the season has seen the Ninja ZX-RR being ridden by team rider, Randy de Puniet, without the added input and expertise of another rider to maximise development potential. With Jacque now able to concentrate his efforts away from racing, the team feel confident the evolution of the bike will move onwards and upwards.
Taking Jacque's place as permanent team rider, Anthony West joins the squad from having previously ridden an Aprilia in the 250cc class. Unhappy in that championship, he went on to make his mark as a stand in rider for the Yamaha World Supersport team. In just three races on the 600cc machine, West took one third place, at Monza, and two wins, at Silverstone and, last weekend, at Misano, which caught the attention of Kawasaki bosses and helped promote him to his new position in the premier class.
Making his factory MotoGP debut alongside Randy this weekend at the British Grand Prix at Donington Park, West has had little opportunity so far to ride Kawasaki's Ninja ZX-RR other than a brief testing session after the race at Catalunya, two weeks ago.
Unable to ride his usual number, 14, as it's already taken by teammate de Puniet, Anthony has bravely adopted the number 13 as his own. It is, as they say, lucky for some, and that's what the Kawasaki team are hoping for with their new line up as the season continues.
"I've crashed on several occasions this season, often with severe injuries and, right now, I feel tired and physically diminished. My body keeps telling me maybe it's time to move on and I don't feel competitive enough to ride at the top level. Obviously, it was a difficult decision to make but Kawasaki and I have reached an agreement that will allow me to stay involved in the racing world, for which I'm passionate, and play a role from the other side of the fence. I'm truly satisfied with this compromise and I wish the team plenty of success with a new, young rider because they really deserve it. I'm convinced the Kawasaki Racing Team has only just begun its MotoGP success."
"I left my 250cc team because the results weren't coming and I wasn't very happy there. Then I did some races on 600cc bikes with the Yamaha team, which have been really good and now I'm here to ride an 800cc factory MotoGP bike. Coming up from smaller bikes, the Ninja is much more comfortable to ride: it's bigger, I feel more natural on it and, overall, it suits me more. When I tested the ZX-RR, it felt right straight away: a lot easier to ride than I expected and the power's so smooth and easy to use. I'm really pleased to be joining the Kawasaki Racing Team: they're great guys and really experienced. For the rest of the season, my aim is to be consistent, try to get some results and not to crash it straight away!"
"I think maybe we expected too much of Olivier this season. Last year he did a fantastic job developing the Ninja ZX-RR that has proved so competitive this year but, in hindsight, expecting him to be able to continue the development process whilst also racing at this level was unrealistic. But we need someone to fulfil this development role, and Olivier is the ideal person to shoulder this responsibility. Once he has fully recovered from the injuries sustained in his Shanghai and Catalunya crashes, Olivier will revert to the role of test and development rider for Kawasaki, on a two-year contract, and we're confident we'll see our development back on track as a result. For Anthony, moving up to the premier series as a factory rider is a big step, but he showed some potential during his brief test aboard our bike in Catalunya, and we hope we can help him realise this potential during the remainder of the season. Now we have two young guns on our bike, and both of them will be able to call upon Olivier's experience whenever they need it. I think this new situation will benefit everyone, and will allow us to show the true performance of our Ninja ZX-RR. Finally, I would like to say thank you to Yamaha, and Racing Manager Laurens Klein Koerkamp in particular, for releasing Anthony and allowing him to realise his dream of competing as a factory rider in MotoGP. "