Happy days for Fonsi Nieto as Kawasaki stand-in

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Following yesterday's confirmation that Kawasaki Racing's Olivier Jacque would not be able to compete at this weekend's race in Le Mans, the MotoGP team have confirmed that Fonsi Nieto will stand-in for the Frenchman at the Alice Grand Prix de France.

Following yesterday's confirmation that Kawasaki Racing's Olivier Jacque would not be able to compete at this weekend's race in Le Mans, the MotoGP team have confirmed that Fonsi Nieto will stand-in for the Frenchman at the Alice Grand Prix de France.

Former 250cc rider Nieto, currently riding for Kawasaki in World Superbikes, will ride the ZX-RR for the first time on Friday at the first practice - but should have few problems with the circuit itself, the scene of his 2002 victory.

"I am so excited to be riding for the Kawasaki Racing Team this weekend and can only thank Kawasaki, as they have treated me so well since I became one of their riders two years ago. However, it's a shame I come here as a replacement for Olivier as I have huge respect for him. No rider wants to act as a replacement, as none of us want to be replaced, but these things happen," says Nieto.

"I am quite familiar with Le Mans and, even if it is a ‘stop-and-go' track, it's not a difficult one. I like it. I won there in 2002, when I was riding in 250cc, but I am aware that it's going to be different this time. I am not in 250cc anymore and I had to change my riding style when I moved to the Superbikes. I don't know what it's going to be like on a MotoGP bike but it's certainly going to be a great experience for me! New category, new bike, new tyres."

"I will have to get used to them all as quickly as I can although, realistically, it will be almost impossible to learn it all in just two days of practice. Still, I am really looking forward to trying the Ninja ZX-RR 800cc as I have heard a lot about it and many people say riding it is similar to riding a 250. Anyway, we will be busy and I will work as hard as I can for the team throughout the weekend, with the target of finishing the race. These people are trusting me and I will try my best not to let them down."

Home rider Randy de Puniet also has a big weekend ahead of him, as he tries to make amends for his bad fortune last year in Le Mans. Punted off-track in the early stages, the regular Kawasaki rider had a miserable maiden MotoGP on French soil in 2006 after starting from fourth on the grid, but is currently on his best run of form on the 800cc ninja.

"I am really excited about racing in Le Mans again this weekend," explained De Puniet. "With its stop and go nature, it's not the most suitable track for my riding style but I have always been fast there and racing in front of my home crowd always gives me a boost. I finished on the podium there in my last four years in 250cc, although I don't have such good memories of last year's race, my first in MotoGP at home. I qualified fourth, my best grid position so far in MotoGP, and I was feeling really positive but it didn't last long as my race ended at the first corner when Rossi crashed into me... I hope nothing like that happens this time!"

"I'm going to France with a lot of confidence after the improvements Kawasaki have made in the last two races, and the Bridgestone tyre performance, which enabled me to get my best MotoGP results so far. We are working hard and I am sure that this weekend will see another step forward in the development of the Ninja ZX-RR. I will do my utmost, as I always do, to get my best MotoGP result in front of all my home fans."

Meanwhile, Kawasaki Competition Manager Michael Bartholemy explained the decision to withdraw Jacque from the weekend's proceedings, saying: "We wanted to give Olivier as much time as possible to recover from his injuries, which is why we have waited until now to make the decision not to run him at Le Mans. He wants to race but it's not physically possible for him to do so because the scar is still too fragile and this is limiting the mobility in his arm. So, he won't race in France but, instead, will focus on regaining full fitness for Mugello."

"Obviously, knowing Olivier might not be fit to race, we spent some time looking at possible replacement riders and, to be honest, there really was only one option. Fonsi is already part of the Kawasaki family and, although he'll be making his MotoGP debut this weekend, he is certainly no stranger to the Grand Prix paddock or the circuit. Sure, coming in cold with no time to test the bike before Friday's opening practice session will be tough but I'm confident he will adapt quickly to the demands of competing in motorcycle racing's premier class and I hope that he will enjoy racing Kawasaki's Ninja ZX-RR at Le Mans."

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