Steve Plater might have had a nightmare track debut with the AIM Yamaha R1, with two crashes at Snetterton last weekend.
But he’s more than confident about his chances in the World Endurance championship riding for the works Kawasaki France team.
He said: “I was consistently the fastest on track, although David Checa did manage one lap a tenth of a second quicker. But we ran the same pace lap after lap in the same time as the fastest lap of the race last year.
“Okay, the works Suzukis and Yamahas will improve because they have brand new bikes and a lot of development to come but I’m up to speed and pretty confident with our bike.”
The World Endurance Championship gets underway on April 21, 2007 with the Le Mans 24 Hour race. The 30th running of this historic race will be the first of six races which make up the 2007 Championship, which visits France, Spain, Japan, Germany, France again, and concludes in Qatar on November 10.
The series boasts an impressive line-up of 20 permanent teams who will be fighting it out over the course of the season.
The Le Mans 24 Hour is one of the most demanding events in the calendar, always approached with trepidation by the teams and is extremely closely fought. There will be no shortage of challengers looking to start the season with a victory and beat the current World Champions - the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT).
Dominique Meliand’s SERT are running Suzuki GSX-R1000s. One is being entrusted to the World Championship-winning team of Vincent Philippe, Matthieu Lagrive and Julien Da Costa, while the other is in the hands of William Costes, Guillaume Dietrich and the German Max Neukirchner – newly recruited from WSB.
Among Suzuki’s closest rivals, Yamaha GMT 94 – winners of the race in 2001 and 2005 – have recruited Olivier Four - the ex-Suzuki rider and winner at Le Mans last year with Honda National Motos - to join Sébastien Gimbert and David Checa.
Kawasaki France, a permanent team this year, is pinning its high hopes on the ZX10R of Plater, Scott Smart and Gwen Giabbani.
Second in the 2006 World Championship, the Yamaha Austria Racing Team has signed Aussie Damian Cudlin from the Yamaha Phase One team, as team-mate for Igor Jerman and Sébastien Scarnato.
Brits Phase One Endurance has retained its headline rider Warwick Nowland who will team up with Glen Richards and Didier Van Keymeulen.
The Kawasaki Bolliger Team Switzerland of David Morillon, Patric Muff and Horst Saiger will also be in with a chance, and not forgetting the winner of the 2006 Le Mans 24 Hour – the National Motos Honda of Frédéric Protat, Dani Ribalta and Denis Bouan.
This year’s Le Mans race will also be the first opportunity to see the Qatar Endurance Racing Team (QERT) in action – a new permanent team entered by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycling Federation (QMMF), the official sponsor of the 2007 World series.
Also lining-up in the open class at Le Mans will be a BMW R1200S, entered by the German factory and ridden by, among others, endurance specialist Stéphane Mertens.
The season-opener starts on Thursday afternoon with the opening qualifying rounds and night qualifiers. Following the second series of qualifiers on Friday morning, the grid will be determined by taking an average of the best times of each of the three riders on every team.
The Le Mans 24-Hour race itself gets underway on Saturday, April 21, 2007 at 3pm.