Nakano An Option For The Third Kawasaki?
The coming of a third Kawasaki to the grid has been talked about for a long time. But over the months, the option has gone from being a racing certainty, to off the table, to having a reasonable chance of success.
The uncertainty has arisen as a result of differences between Kawasaki and Jorge Martinez Aspar, the manager of the 125 and 250 Aspar teams, who was slated to run the project. Martinez had sponsorship to fund the project, but the sponsors were all Spanish, and demanded a Spanish rider to use to sell to their home market. Spanish media sources even intimated that just being Spanish wouldn't be enough, but that Martinez would be required to run a rider from the Valencia Autonomous Community (a region equivalent to a US state) to help promote the region to tourists.
At Motegi, the deal looked to be almost dead in the water, but now, Motorcycle News is reporting that it's back on again, with a surprising amendment. Matthew Birt's report states that Kawasaki is demanding that Shinya Nakano be given the ride over any Spanish riders.
There is no word as yet of Martinez' reaction to these demands, but an announcement is due before the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island. It remains to be seen whether Martinez can hang on to the sponsors for this project if they don't get a Spanish rider, which would put the project in jeapordy again unless the factory can come up with the money to fund it.
As for Nakano, this would most likely be a very positive move. The Japanese rider, once regarded as one of the most promising riders to enter the class, has seen his performance suffer since leaving Kawasaki to ride a Honda. Returning to Kawasaki would at the very least give Nakano a psychological boost.
It could help Kawasaki as well. Both Nakano and Hopkins like to carry a lot of corner speed, and place a lot of emphasis on the front of the bike. With two riders with similar styles on the Kawasaki, progress in developing the ZXRR could be accelerated.