The Kawasaki Racing Team gathered to bid a fond farewell to popular German rider, Alex Hofmann, during a surprise presentation today ahead of the Valencia Grand Prix.
As Alex returned to pit lane after the morning warm-up session he was met by the entire Kawasaki Racing Team, all of whom were sporting "Alex #66" shirts in place of the more usual race day team uniform.
The Valencia Grand Prix was to be Alex's final appearance for Kawasaki, after three years with the team, and to mark the occasion he was presented with a replica Ninja ZX-RR mini-bike by Team Manager, Harald Eckl.
"I appreciate very much everything that Alex has done for the team, and it is not easy for me to say goodbye to him," declared Eckl, as he made the presentation.
"Alex has been a committed member of our team for three years, and he has earned his place in MotoGP. It goes without saying that I, and everyone else in the team, wish him all the very best for the future," continued Eckl.
Harald Eckl first came across his fellow countryman when the 13-year-old Hofmann joined an ADAC backed racing school for promising youngsters that Eckl, then a Grand Prix rider himself, was involved with.
"Already at just 13-years-of-age Alex had talent and a very mature approach to racing, plus a great desire to succeed," remembers Eckl.
"I followed his career and then for 2003 I was able to offer him the job of test and development rider for the new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-RR MotoGP project."
"He did an excellent job with our technical and tyre programme, surprised a few people in some wild card rides, and then was an obvious choice as a race rider with Shinya Nakano for 2004 and 2005."
"The more powerful and heavier 990cc four-stroke machines suited his style, more so than the 500cc GP bikes on which he had impressed as a replacement rider during the 2002 season," added Eckl.
Alex Hofmann made his Kawasaki race debut as wild card in the Spanish Grand Prix at the beginning of the 2003 season. Including today's Valencia GP, Hofmann has made a total of 31 starts for Kawasaki aboard the Ninja ZX-RR, with a best result of eighth in the 2005 British Grand Prix at Donington.
His best qualifying performance was also eighth, at Phillip Island in the 2004 Australian GP.
"I've enjoyed my time at Kawasaki, especially working with a great bunch of guys in the garage, although this season has not been so lucky for me," Hofmann said.
<>p>"This part of my career is over, but I intend to be back racing in MotoGP," he added.
Unfortunately Hofmann's 2005 season, which promised so much, has been plagued by a series of unfortunate injuries that kept him out of seven races. But Hofmann always faced these setbacks with a positive attitude and the determination to come back even stronger.
He showed that spirit again today when he rode with two plates and 16 screws in his left ankle and foot following his most recent injury.
Hofmann rode through the pain barrier to finish a brave 14th in the Valencia race, scoring championship points in his final Ninja ZX-RR appearance. Earlier in the season he missed three races with a fractured wrist.
"Alex is still improving as a rider and I'm sure he will get opportunities to show his potential in MotoGP in the future. It has been a great pleasure to work with him over the past three seasons, and I hope we'll have the opportunity to work together again sometime in the future," Eckl concluded.