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Kawasaki consider three rider team after Hayden Laguna wild card announcement

Kawasaki consider three rider team after Hayden Laguna wild card announcement

Kawasaki Racing have officially announced that Roger Lee Hayden, brother of current MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden, will represent them as a wild card rider at the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix later this month, and the team have acknowledged that the move could be the start of a series of extra appearances and possibly a full-time three rider outfit in 2008.

Kawasaki Racing have officially announced that Roger Lee Hayden, brother of current MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden, will represent them as a wild card rider at the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix later this month - and the team have acknowledged that the move could be the start of a series of extra appearances and possibly a full-time three rider outfit in 2008.

Hayden already rides for the Japanese motorcycle giants in both the AMA Superbike and Supersport series in America, and will now get a chance to test his skills onboard the factory Ninja ZX-RR MotoGP bike at Laguna Seca, where his brother Nicky has taken victory for the last two years.

The 24 year old from Kentucky will race a third bike for Kawasaki at the Californian track, alongside regular riders, Randy de Puniet and Anthony West. With both AMA Superbike and Supersport featuring as support races at the American Grand Prix, Hayden will ride his Kawasaki ZX-6R in the latter, in addition to his MotoGP wildcard ride, but the decision has been taken for him to miss the Superbike race on this occasion.

Hayden test rode Shinya Nakano's 2006 Kawasaki 990cc MotoGP bike during a session at Valencia at the end of last season and also recently tested the new 800cc ZX-RR at the Autopolis circuit in Japan.

The Kawasaki wildcard began riding at six years old and turned professional in 1999. He was runner-up in the AMA Supersport championship in both 2004 and 2005, came fifth in the series last year and is currently in second place in the 2007 championship. Last season he was AMA Superbike Rookie of the Year and has a good record at Laguna Seca, where he took a Supersport win in 2004.

Commenting on his MotoGP opportunity Hayden said: "The test last week went pretty well and I felt comfortable on the Ninja ZX-RR straight away. It'll definitely take a bit of getting used to but I'm really grateful for the support of Kawasaki, who flew me all the way to Japan so I'd already be a little bit familiar with the bike before the race. It's a lot smaller than the bikes I normally ride, and revs a lot higher, but it handles really well and I feel I made the transition quite smoothly."

"It's a dream come true to race a MotoGP bike at Laguna Seca and it's been years since I raced against Nicky. I'm not putting any pressure on myself: I'd just like it to be a positive experience and if I can score some points, that would be awesome. With quite a few Americans on the grid, the crowd will certainly have something to cheer about, plus my family and friends are going to come along so it should all be pretty cool."

Meanwhile Kawasaki's Competition Manager Michael Bartholemy explained: "Originally we had no intention of running any wild card riders this year, but we were able to look again at the possibility after the Catalunya race and it quickly became apparent that there was an opportunity for us to run a third bike at Laguna Seca. America is a very important market for Kawasaki, so that's why we've made the decision to be the first manufacturer to run an American wild card rider in the U.S. Grand Prix since it's return to the calendar in 2005."

"We chose Roger Lee because he's a long serving member of the 'Kawasaki family', representing Kawasaki in the domestic championships in the United States. We don't have any particular expectations of him in the race, as his time on the bike so far has been limited, but we know that he will be out to secure the best result possible for himself, and I hope that he will enjoy the chance to ride Kawasaki's Ninja ZX-RR in front of his home crowd. Who knows? Maybe this will be the start of us using wildcard riders more in the future or, possibly, running a third bike full time in the championship next year."

Tags:
MotoGP, 2007, RED BULL U.S. GRAND PRIX, Nicky Hayden, Kawasaki Racing Team

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