MotoGP: Kawasaki to decide between Shinya Nakano and Anthony West

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Randy de Puniet’s departure today (Friday) to the LCR Honda squad has left Kawasaki to decide on whether Shinya Nakano or Anthony West will partner John Hopkins in the 2008 MotoGP world championship.

Aussie West, who is currently partnering Randy de Puniet having stepped in as Olivier Jacque’s permanent replacement earlier this season, and Nakano are the only candidates at present for the second ZX-RR machine next season.

Shinya Nakano has emerged as a late candidate for the second ZX-RR, less than 12 months after he walked out on Kawasaki to ride the Konica Minolta Honda RC212V.

Kawasaki team boss Michael Bartholemy confirmed to MCN Anthony West and Shinya Nakano were the only remaining targets, denying recent press reports that the Japanese factory is locked in negotiations with triple world champion Dani Pedrosa.

Pedrosa is stalling on a signing a new contract with Honda’s official factory team and the Spaniard is rumoured to pushing for HRC to switch to Bridgestone tyres in 2008.

MCN understands though that Dani Pedrosa will meet Honda bosses in next weekend’s Misano MotoGP to agree on a fresh deal, though it is believed he is only willing to sign a one-year extension to his current contract.

Michael Bartholemy said: “Anthony and Shinya are the two riders left on the list. I have never even said hello in my life to Dani or to his manager Alberto Puig. There has been no contact from Kawasaki at all.”

Bartholemy said Randy de Puniet’s decision to accept the LCR Honda offer instead of waiting for Kawasaki’s decision on John Hopkins’ team-mate on Tuesday, September 4, 2007 had come as a major surprise.

“He needed to be sure he had a ride in MotoGP. If he couldn’t wait then fine, he has to sign.

“But I still believe he had time to wait and say maybe he had an option to ride in a factory team until after Misano. Honestly I was a little bit shocked.

“Randy never called to speak to me. I still think I have a friendly relationship with Randy and I was quite surprised because I thought he could wait until at least Misano, which is when we told him we would make our decision.

“He was a candidate so I was quite surprised. It is like this and I still think he is one of the fastest riders in the championship.

“He has not been so lucky over the last 18 months with race results and I wish him good luck for the next two years with (Lucio) Cecchinello,” said Bartholemy.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt