The Kawasaki Racing Team will combine youth and experience in their rider line-up for the 2007 season, with former world champion, Olivier Jacque, making his full time return to the MotoGP grid, riding alongside current Kawasaki young gun, and fellow countryman, Randy de Puniet.
The 2007 season will be de Puniet's second with the Kawasaki Racing Team. The 25-year-old Frenchman enjoyed a solid debut year in the MotoGP class with Kawasaki, during which he showed his potential on a number of occasions, whilst also gaining valuable experience with every outing aboard his Ninja ZX-RR.
De Puniet's professional approach to his racing this season, combined with a fierce determination to succeed, was enough to convince Kawasaki Racing Director, Kenichi Furuhashi, that the Frenchman was the right person to lead Kawasaki's assault on the 2007 MotoGP World Championship.
De Puniet is Kawasaki's investment for the future, and by backing up this investment with a seasoned campaigner such as Jacque, Furuhashi-san is confident that the young Frenchman will be able to fully realise his obvious potential next season, as he steps up to fill the team leader's position vacated by Shinya Nakano.
Jacque, whose work as Kawasaki's test and development rider this year has been instrumental in the increasing competitiveness of the Ninja ZX-RR, will make his debut as a full time Kawasaki rider in November, during a planned test at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia where, together with teammate de Puniet, he will participate in the first shakedown tests of the 800cc machine that both Kawasaki pilots will campaign during the 2007 season.
Teaming a young rider like de Puniet with an experienced development rider such as Jacque will pay dividends for Kawasaki next season, with input from both riders accelerating the development of the Japanese manufacturer's 800cc Ninja ZX-RR into a race-winning package.
Randy de Puniet: #17"My first season in MotoGP is only just finished, but already I'm focussed on what I need to do over the winter so that we hit the start of the new season running. This season has been a difficult one for me; I've been on a very, very steep learning curve and it's been hard to hit the goals I set myself at the beginning of the year. But, I've learnt a lot over the past twelve months, and I hope I will be able to take this information and convert it into improved results next season. This year I was lucky to have a good working relationship with an experienced teammate like Shinya, and I hope that Olivier and I can develop the same open style of working during winter testing. We've yet to test the new 800cc machine, but the general consensus is that the new bikes will be more like a 250cc machine to ride, and I think that will suit both me and Olivier, with our quarter litre experience."
Olivier Jacque: #19"For sure I'm very happy to have been given this opportunity by Kawasaki. To be honest, after finishing second in Shanghai one year ago, I was expecting the call up last season. But, the circumstances were not right and the decision was made to go with a young head - but now the old head is back! With a new bike to develop for next season experience will be important, and I'm pleased that Kawasaki view me as the person to help develop their new 800cc Ninja ZX-RR. It is good to have the hard work we've done in developing this season's bike into a competitive package recognised with a full-time ride for the factory team. What feels strange for me is that, despite so many years in Grand Prix racing, this will be the first full factory team I have ridden for since winning the 250cc world title in 2000. I'm certainly looking forward to the challenge ahead, and I can't wait to test the new bike for the first time later this month."
Kenichi Furuhashi: Racing Director"Randy has had a solid start to his MotoGP career, and we truly believe he has the potential to be one of the fastest riders in the MotoGP class. In his second year with Kawasaki we need to work closely with Randy to ensure that he has the opportunity to realise fully this potential. I'm confident that he will adapt quickly to the new 800cc machine during winter testing, and that we will see a marked improvement in his race results next season."
"When it came to replacing Shinya Nakano in the team for next season, Olivier Jacque was the obvious choice for Kawasaki. He has worked tirelessly this year on the development of the current Ninja ZX-RR, and these development skills will be critical to the success of Kawasaki's 800cc machine next year. Also, we have seen from his performances during testing this season that Olivier still has the speed needed to compete in MotoGP. Just as importantly, he is a proven team player, and teamwork will be key to our success next year."
"For Kawasaki, the new 800cc capacity limit for MotoGP is a welcome change. When we returned to Grand Prix racing in 2002, we were at a disadvantage compared to our factory rivals, who had all amassed a lot of experience during our absence from the premier series. We have learnt a lot in the last four years, which means we will start the 800cc era of MotoGP racing at the same level as our competitors. I hope that, together with our riders, we will have the opportunity to write another chapter in Kawasaki's racing history next year."