Germany's Alex Hofmann will return to the Kawasaki line-up for this Sunday's Valencia Grand Prix, the final event of a marathon, 17 race, MotoGP World Championship season.
Out of action for seven weeks because of injury, Hofmann will race alongside Kawasaki's MotoGP stalwart, Shinya Nakano, who is currently in tenth place in the championship points.
The Valencia race comes seven months after the championship also opened in Spain, with the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez.
That race produced an outstanding performance by Nakano, his best qualifying and race result of the season. After qualifying fifth on the grid, Nakano finished an impressive fifth in the race.
Nakano is aiming for a similarly strong end to the season on the compact, stadium-style Ricardo Tormo circuit, which squeezes 14 turns into a lap distance of 4.005 km.
Nakano was seventh in this race last year, on a track of primarily left turns (nine) and short straights - the longest being 876 metres.
This will be Hofmann's final race appearance aboard a Ninja ZX-RR, with Kawasaki recently confirming that MotoGP rookie, French rider Randy de Puniet, will be Nakano's partner for the 2006 season.
Over the past six weeks Hofmann has undergone an intense programme of rehabilitation and physiotherapy - between four and six hours per day - in a bid to be fit for Valencia.
Hofmann had 16 screws and two plates inserted to correct eight fractures to his left ankle and foot, following a crash in the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi in September. The full extent of Hofmann's injury was not discovered until he returned to Germany and was treated by specialist, Dr Walther, in a Munich clinic.
Having missed seven races in an injury-hit season, Hofmann is eager to return to race action for the season-closing Valencia Grand Prix, and work with his Kawasaki team mechanics for the final time.
Shinya Nakano: #56;
"I would like to finish the season with the same, or better, result than in Jerez. Valencia is a technical track and I like it, but it is difficult to overtake, so this makes qualifying very important. I remember that our tyre supplier, Bridgestone, had pole position here last year. A good grid position, and a fast start, are critical at this track. Overall I have enjoyed the season and, despite a couple of long flights, it seems to have gone very fast; it feels like I started racing just a couple of months ago. My goal was to finish better than tenth in the championship, but at the moment this is the reality for the Kawasaki team - with factory bikes from Honda, Yamaha and Ducati ahead in the points. For sure next year we need to take a big step forward, but I'm positive about this, it is one of the reasons I have stayed with Kawasaki for 2006, to continue with the ZX-RR project."
Alex Hofmann: #66;
"I can't wait to be back, I have watched far too many races on TV this season. I reckon I've got more screws in my ankle than the mechanics have in their toolboxes! I really must thank Dr Walther in Munich and everyone who has helped me in the rehabilitation - even if they thought I was joking when I said I wanted to race in Valencia. The Motegi crash was the worst I've had in terms of injuries, but that is behind me. I want a positive finish to the season in my final race with Kawasaki and to work with my mechanics again - they have been a great team. The physiotherapy and training have not been easy, but I have done everything possible to be as close to 100% fit, and I'll do the best job that my body will allow. I've done a couple of tours on my Z-1000, to put some weight on my ankle, however the other riders have done the best training - they have been racing MotoGP."