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No more excuses for Kawasaki says Eckl

No more excuses for Kawasaki says Eckl

No more excuses for Kawasaki says Eckl

Kawasaki Racing Team Manager Harald Eckl has admitted that there are now no excuses for the Japanese factory not to be competitive in 2004 after signing two new riders and developing a brand new version of the Ninja ZX-RR. The ‘Green Team' will also be running Bridgestone tyres, who scored their first MotoGP podium last season, and Eckl said it was time for the whole team to stand up and be counted.

"This, our second year in the MotoGP World Championship, is obviously very important to us and excuses about being beginners in this class just won't cut it anymore," declared Eckl. "We have applied the lessons learned in 2003 and, as a result, we head into the coming season with a new team structure, an updated version of the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-RR, a new tyre supplier and two new riders. Expectations are high."

Changes to the Ninja ZX-RR include a revised 990cc inline four-cylinder engine housed in a new chassis, designed to create a more compact machine with a lower centre of gravity. It is a key development which Eckl believes can make a huge difference in the overall performance of the bike.

"The latest version of the Ninja ZX-RR is a result of collaboration between engineers at Kawasaki in Japan and engineers based in Europe," explained Eckl. "The chassis will be jointly developed, which gives us the development flexibility we need to compete at the very highest level. Engine development will be conducted entirely in Japan. For me it is a very promising package."

The announcement yesterday that the bike would be ridden by Shinya Nakano, alongside former test and development rider Alex Hofmann, was also greeted enthusiastically by Eckl: "We have two good riders in Shinya Nakano and Alex Hofmann," he said. "Shinya's Grand Prix experience will undoubtedly accelerate our development process, with his input allowing us to close the gap on the top teams in the championship. This will be Alex's first full season in MotoGP, but I fully expect him to be up there with Shinya in the races."

Hofmann, the only German competing in this year's MotoGP World Championship, is determined to build on his impressive wildcard performances in 2003 and is aiming for regular points scoring finishes in his rookie season.

"I am obviously looking forward to my first full season in MotoGP," commented the 23 year old. "We tested the new bike briefly at the end of 2003 and it was a definite improvement over the previous version. I'm confident that, with an extensive preseason test schedule ahead of us, we'll be able to improve the bike even further before the season gets underway in South Africa.

"I'm also looking forward to working with Shinya, not just because he's an experienced MotoGP rider who I can learn a lot from, but also because he's such a nice guy and so easy to get along with.

"My aim for this season is to continue to improve my riding, score points in every race and, hopefully, be in a position to challenge for top ten finishes on a regular basis towards the end of the year."

Kawasaki Racing Team will test for four days at Sepang between the 20th and 26th January, before returning on 11th February for a further three days. They then have a four-day test at Phillip Island scheduled for 23-26 February before returning to Europe for the IRTA tests at Catalunya and Jerez.

MotoGP, 2003, Kawasaki Racing Team

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