Yanagawa to join De Puniet and West at Motegi
August 21, 2007
The Kawasaki Racing Team will field a third rider at the Japanese round of the MotoGP world championship next month. Current leader of the All Japan Superbike Championship, Akira Yanagawa, will join team stalwarts, Randy de Puniet and Anthony West, on a Ninja ZX-RR at the Motegi circuit as, for the second time this year, the team will put three riders on the grid.
Like Roger Lee Hayden, who rode to an impressive tenth place as a wild card for Kawasaki at Laguna Seca back in July, Yanagawa is looking forward to pitting himself against the best riders in the world at his home circuit.
Yanagawa is already well known to race fans the world over. From winning the Japanese 250cc championship in 1990, he progressed to his domestic superbike series in 1993 then on to World Superbikes in 1997, getting an excellent fourth in the championship in his rookie year. Between then and 2002, he made it on to the podium 23 times, including celebrating three wins.
He was also the rider who developed the original Kawasaki ZX-RR MotoGP bike during 2002 and rode it at its debut in the Pacific Grand Prix, at Motegi, towards the end of that year’s season. However, the 36-year-old crashed out, breaking his pelvis in the process, so Andrew Pitt was drafted in to replace him for the remaining three rounds.
Yanagawa now rides a Kawasaki ZX-10R for Team Green in the Japanese superbike series. After five rounds, he’s claimed one victory, at Tsukuba circuit, and a second, at Autopolis, putting him two points ahead of nearest rival, Atsushi Watanabe, with just three rounds remaining.
After the disappointment of 2002, Yanagawa has unfinished business with the Ninja ZX-RR and is looking forward to riding its latest incarnation, the 800cc machine, again at Motegi. The Kawasaki Racing Team look forward to his joining them again on the track.
"The first time I raced the Ninja ZX-RR was also at Motegi, when Kawasaki made their long awaited return to Grand Prix racing after an absence of more than two decades. On that occasion I crashed out of the race, so I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to finally finish what I started five years ago. I'm under no illusions about how tough it will be, racing against the very best riders in the world, but I hope that I will be able to finish in the points and also provide important feedback for Kawasaki's development engineers. For me, race day will be about enjoying the chance to race the latest version of Kawasaki's Ninja ZX-RR and finishing as high up the order as I can."
"Obviously, as a Japanese factory team, the Grand Prix at Motegi is an important race for us. For this reason we have decided to field three riders, with Akira Yanagawa joining Randy de Puniet and Anthony West aboard a third Ninja ZX-RR for this event. Akira last rode the Ninja ZX-RR in a Grand Prix back in 2003, as a wild card at Catalunya, but he's kept his racing skills sharp competing in the All Japan Superbike Championship, which he's currently leading aboard a Kawasaki ZX-10R. I think it will be interesting for Akira to see just how far the Ninja ZX-RR has progressed since he last raced it, and we're certainly looking forward to seeing him finish his home MotoGP race aboard the bike this time around."