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Kawasaki ride with Shane Kelly in Melbourne

Kawasaki ride with Shane Kelly in Melbourne

In the build-up to the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix this weekend the Kawasaki Racing team found time for an interesting visit to the Melbourne Velodrome.

Following some recent long journeys and their mixed results at the A-Style Grand Prix of Japan the Kawasaki Racing MotoGP team spent some days relaxing in Melbourne this week en route to Phillip Island.

On Wednesday afternoon John Hopkins and Anthony West joined Kawasaki´s Competition Manager, Michael Bartholemy, at the Darebin Velodrome in Melbourne for a track cycling session with Australian five-time Olympian Shane Kelly.

The affable Aussie cyclist introduced the Kawasaki men to a piece of two-wheeled kit which could hardly be more different to the 800cc Ninja ZX-RR used in MotoGP, a single gear bicycle with which the intrepid trio were to get to grips with the steeply banked track.

Despite never having visited an indoor velodrome before, Hopkins, West and Bartholemy were soon well into the swing of things, enjoying several laps of practice before an inevitably rather one-sided pursuit showdown with Kelly, the former Olympic rider hunting down Bartholemy at the end of the first 250-metre lap, and reeling in the Kawasaki MotoGP stars halfway round the second.

`I thought I was going quite fast,´ admitted West, `but I looked back on the second lap and I couldn´t see Shane. That´s because he´d already shot past me round the outside, as I was looking for him on the inside. His acceleration from a standing start was unbelievable, and I think he´d taken 100 metres out of our lead before we even reached the first turn!´

`Actually they have done very well,´ declared Kelly. `The first time on a velodrome is always a daunting experience. They got straight onto it and they were straight up on the steep banking where you are looking at a 45 degree angle so they did very good. Their fitness is obviously really high and it is a crucial part of any sport.´

Determined to avoid being lapped this weekend at his home GP, West is unsurprisingly in a highly motivated mood as he approaches the Phillip Island contest despite a suffering a torrid season on-track.

Looking to put things right after last Sunday´s Motegi race ended with him in fifteenth place, West commented, `It is definitely great to be back in Australia, it has been a long time that I have been away and I am really looking forward to the race this weekend. I know the track pretty well, I have done plenty of laps around there and I am just looking for a good result. It has been a hard year so I will be going all-out at this race.´

For Hopkins, meanwhile, MotoGP´s Aussie visit means a return to the track where he sustained a painful groin injury in pre-season testing at the beginning of 2008, hampering his debut season efforts with Kawasaki.

Nonetheless, the Anglo-American goes into the sixteenth round of the season in a typically optimistic frame of mind, stating, `Phillip Island is a great place, with a great atmosphere as well as an excellent track, so I can´t wait to get out there. Last time I was here I had a big injury so we have got to get through that and I just want to have a really good weekend. It (the Phillip Island injury) does not really enter my mind, at every track you go to you cannot think about injuries at all.´

Reflecting on his tenth place in Japan Hopkins added, `Last weekend wasn´t really all that bad. Considering what we had been through at the last couple of races, it was actually a pretty good weekend for us. We are looking to build on that, consistently stay inside the top ten and move down towards the top five.´

MotoGP, 2008, AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX, John Hopkins, Anthony West, Kawasaki Racing Team

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