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West to make Le Mans comeback – but with Aprilia Germany

West to make Le Mans comeback – but with Aprilia Germany

West to make Le Mans comeback – but with Aprilia Germany

Anthony West will make his long-awaited comeback to grand prix motorcycle racing in this Sunday's 250cc world championship race at Le Mans in France, but strangely enough he will be riding for Aprilia Germany.

West, who won the 250cc Dutch Grand Prix in 2003, will make a 'one-off' ride for the Aprilia Germany team in the fourth round of this year's championship on the 4.1km Le Mans circuit.

The 23-year-old Gold Coast rider missed the final two 250cc races in 2004 after breaking his left wrist in a crash before the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island, and then signed with Austrian manufacturer KTM in the off-season to ride a works machine in this year's championship.

He was absent from the opening three rounds of 2005 in Spain, Portugal, and China because his new KTM had not been completed, and was not expected to be race-ready until round five at Mugello in Italy.

West said he was approached to race at Le Mans by Aprilia Germany team boss Dieter Stappert, and added that KTM had approved the ride because it would assist him prepare for his eventual debut on the new works 250cc machine later in the year.

"I haven't been on a grand prix bike, either racing or testing, for seven months, so the ride at Le Mans will give me the chance to get back into it after such a long time away," said West.

"Right now I need 'race miles' more than anything, and KTM can see this will help me get myself ready for when my new bike is ready to go."

West, who has made 77 grand prix starts in the 125cc, 250cc, and 500cc classes since 1998, will fly from his Austrian base near Salzburg to Paris today and link up with the Aprilia Germany team at Le Mans ahead of Friday's opening practice and qualifying sessions.

He said that results-wise he had set cautious expectations for the Le Mans race because his Aprilia was not a works machine.

"I'm going there to do my best and I'm thankful for this opportunity to race, but it will be tough against all the factory bikes so my aim is to finish and get in the racing groove again," he said.

"Le Mans is a 'stop-go' track with and the factory bikes just power away from the privateers when they accelerate out of the slow turns. You've got to make up time under brakes."

West has made three previous 250cc grand prix starts at Le Mans, finishing fifth in 2000 on a Honda, and seventh in 2003 and sixth in 2004 on privateer Aprilias. He has been in Austria for a month awaiting completion of his new KTM works machine, and he has been training with the factory's motocross and supermotard riders.

"KTM have been great with organising training rides with people like Kurt Nicoll, and helping me settle in," said West.

"The 250 is a new project for KTM and they want to give me the best possible bike. We're all keen to go racing once the bike is finished."

In addition to winning the 250cc Dutch Grand Prix in 2003, his other results that year included top-three podium finishes in at Phillip Island in Australia, Catalonia in Spain, and Donington Park in Britain.

250cc, 2005, GRAND PRIX ALICE DE FRANCE, Anthony West

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