Walker signs for Kawasaki WSB – full story

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CHRIS WALKER is back – just three months after he was dropped from the Shell Advance Honda 500GP team, he has signed a deal to ride a factory Kawasaki in WSB.

It will be the news his legions of fans have been waiting for – Walker back on a bike he knows well, racing in a series he has done well in before, with tyres he loves.

The news that Walker has signed a deal to go to WSB full-time for the first time in his career comes after weeks of negotiation between him and the German-based Kawasaki team.

Walker tested the factory Kawasaki ZX-7RR last week at Oschersleben in Germany while team boss Harald Eckl was in Japan getting the final go-ahead to sign him.

Walker and Eckl first met at Assen in September to discuss the future. Eckl is known to have been keen to get the popular British rider on board for 2002.

The Kawasaki team has struggled for the past couple of years to get on the pace. Many believe it was more to do with the riders than the bike. It may be the oldest machine on the grid, but it’s still one of the fastest. And new weight limits expected to be introduced for 2002 are likely to give a new lease of life to the ZXR and other four-cylinder machines.

Walker will be joined by Japanese rider Hitoyasu Izutsu, who spent this year riding in WSB part-time as a build-up to 2002 after swopping from the Japanese championship.

The decision to go with Walker and Izutsu means both of this year’s riders – Akira Yanagawa and Gregorio Lavilla – will leave the team. Yanagawa is expected to announce his retirement within the next few weeks and Lavilla is known to be in talks with Suzuki and several 500 GP teams.

Walker said: ” It has taken a while for me to get something sorted out for next year, but the Kawasaki deal is fantastic and will allow me to get my world championship hopes back on track.

” I am really appreciative that I have been given the opportunity to ride in WSB. After the year I’ve had I need something I can enjoy. ”

Team boss Eckl said: ” Getting Chris on board has been something we have been working on for some time and the pairing of Izutsu and him together will be formidable. ”

* European Superstock title holder James Ellison was at the same test as Walker in Germany – but not to ride the superbike. He and WSB regular Robert Ulm were both asked to test the ZX-6R, but neither has signed anything.

MCN Staff

By MCN Staff