It’s going to be any interesting weekend watching how Chris Walker goes on the MSS Kawasaki at Oulton Park as he stands in for the injured Simon Andrews.
Walker has been racing a privateer Suzuki GSX-R1000, prepared by Ray Stringer, but after an early injection of sponsorship cash to buy the bike and paying a proportion of Walker’s wages, the rest of the money to run the team for the season has been delayed.
Walker certainly hasn’t been outclassed on the GSX-R1000 considering that the bike has no engine braking strategies, no traction control, no anti wheelie, no launch control - and not even any data-logging elements - that virtually every one of his rival’s bikes have to make the job that little bit easier
Walker’s been controlling everything with his right wrist on the bike and, with Stringer, has been setting up the bike based on massive experience.
But it’s been slightly interesting to watch crew chief and rider bouncing on the bike’s rear end to assess how well the shock is working. Proper old school!
It’s something both the rider and technician of their experience can cope with at certain tracks – but it does make the job a lot more labour intensive and you can only wonder just how much better it would be if the money was there to invest in the electronics package.
And, while he could maybe rely on his riding skill at Brands Indy and Thruxton, Oulton sans electronics would be a very difficult proposition for even Walker – the track undulations there contriving to turn any conventional 200bhp+ superbike into a wild wheelie monster.
Money has been so tight for that the running costs for the first two rounds has come out of Walker’s own pocket - around £12,000 to date - and that tells you something about Walker’s continued commitment to the job after all these years.
Walker admitted: "It's been a lot of fun riding my privateer bike so far this year with the help of Ray Stringer but with our team sponsors still a week or two away from being announced it's been difficult.”
Ironically, Walker was in the running for an MSS Kawasaki ride this winter, until Gary Mason was chosen as Andrews’ team-mate, so it’s going to be really interesting how he shapes up on the green bike, with it’s full quote of electronic rider aids - and operating out of the same garage as Mason.
MSS Kawasaki team boss Nick Morgan said: "It's great to have the Stalker back in green, we were very close to signing him over the winter and hopefully he can make the best use of this opportunity.”
Hmm. For what purpose? To prove himself on a top bike? To lift MSS Kawasaki’s ailing 2010 BSB fortunes? To spur Mason to greater things?
Or maybe it’s to see just if Walker can take the team where, after all their hard work these past three seasons in BSB, you could say they should be - at the sharp end of the BSB grid.
We’ve seen flashes of brilliance last year from Andrews but what the team needs is a string of consistent top six (or better) finishes.
Walker won’t be able to prove anything in one round but it might give a pointer as to the bike’s capabilities. What he really needs is more than one race and the team PR hinted he might just get it.
The deal was originally said to be just for Oulton but it’s interesting that the official press release contained this quote from Walker: “I have been offered a fantastic opportunity in joining Nick Morgan at the MSS Colchester Kawasaki team for a round or two while Simon Andrews is out with a broken ankle.”
And he went on to add this: “It's a ride I had chased hard for in the winter for 2010 so it's great to actually get the chance to ride the ZX-10R. I have always had a good relationship with Kawasaki so I want to go out there and do the best I can.
“It's a factory that I have enjoyed a lot of success with over the years. I'm really looking forward to the challenge ahead and would like to thank all involved, Ray Stringer, Nick Morgan, Kawasaki and my sponsors for allowing me this chance and making it all possible. Roll on Oulton!"
Roll on Oulton indeed – and Cadwell by the sound of it.