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From Kawasaki Racing Team website

02 Jul 2007

Anthony West is nothing if not versatile. The 25-year-old Australian rider started the 2007 season in the 250cc World Championship, switched to the World Supersport Championship, where he won two races, and now he's back in the Grand Prix paddock to ride the factory Kawasaki Ninja ZX-RR for the remainder of the 2007 season.

Like many Australian riders before him West cut his teeth racing dirt track, racking up two national titles by the time he turned 15. His first road race outing came at Suzuka in 1997 where he raced in the 80cc Bronze Cup series. In 1998 he lifted the Australian 250cc production title, finished third in the national 125cc championship and made his Grand Prix debut as a wild card rider at Phillip Island.

The following season saw West leave his native Australian to contest the 250cc World Championship series for the Shell Advance team, with whom he stayed for two seasons, finishing sixth in the championship standings in just his second year.

For the 2001 season West stepped up to the premier class aboard a privateer 500cc v-twin machine, which was no match for the v-four, full factory bikes of his rivals. After a year out of the Grand Prix paddock in 2002, The Australian returned to the 250cc championship in 2003, claiming his first Grand Prix win at Assen. His reward was a place in the factory KTM 250cc squad for 2005 where, despite a bike that was still in the early stages of development, he managed to pull off a surprise second place in a wet race at Donington, behind his new Kawasaki teammate, Randy de Puniet.

With Olivier Jacque forced to sit out the Catalunya Grand Prix through injury, West was drafted in as a temporary test rider to assist Randy de Puniet with Bridgestone tyre testing the day after the Catalunya race. West was quick to adapt to the Ninja ZX-RR, ending the his first day aboard Kawasaki's MotoGP racer with lap times close to those of the rider he was standing in for.

When the decision was made by Kawasaki for Olivier Jacque to step down from racing full time to concentrate solely on development, West's performance during the one day Montmeló test made him the obvious choice as a replacement.

Getting a ride in a factory MotoGP team is a pretty big thing: how does it feel to join Kawasaki?

It feels amazing, after all, a factory ride is obviously particularly special. It's quite daunting, too: these guys have been riding these bikes all year and I've got a lot of catching up to do. But it's great as it's been my dream for so long and I never really thought I'd have the opportunity.

What do you make of the Kawasaki Racing Team's MotoGP campaign after the changes they made at the end of last year?

Even from the outside, before I joined, it looked like they were moving in the right direction. Certainly, there's a big difference. Even the bikes look much better, as well as going that much faster and being much, much more competitive.

You raced in the 250cc world championship for some years; how did that prepare you for MotoGP?

I guess, when it comes to the bikes, at least there's the similarity in that, on a 250cc as well as on the Ninja ZX-RR, you can pretty much change anything, so I've learned about making changes to suit my style and so on. You don't get that on, say, a 600cc Supersport bike, when you're so limited to the changes you can make. Also, I've been part of the paddock for a while so it's not a completely alien environment.

Is there anyone in the Kawasaki Racing Team who has made you feel particularly welcome and valued?

Yes, my crew chief, Fiorenzo Fanali. I like the way he talks when we're making adjustments to the bike or analysing the performance: he always says 'we'… In other words, me as the rider, the bike and the team, stressing it's a joint effort and not all down to me. He's been around a long time and has so much experience.

What advice does Fiorenzo give you?

He keeps telling me to take it easy and slow down! And he's not putting any pressure on me, which is a relief.

How do you get on with your pit crew?

They've been really cool, especially as they didn't know initially if I was going to be any good or not! The feeling I get from the whole team, including Randy's side of the garage, has been really welcoming and encouraging.

In what ways has the bike surprised you?

It's very different from what I've ridden in the past but not as difficult to ride as I expected. Obviously, it's fast but it doesn't feel like it's going to crash at every corner. On a 250cc machine, when you're pushing it, you can feel you're on the edge but on the ZX-RR, you can open the throttle, slide it around but still feel in control. It's very nice to ride.

Do you have to adapt your riding style to suit the Ninja ZX-RR?

Well, I started out racing bigger four strokes in Japan so had to change when I joined 250s. Now I have to change it back again but that's good because I much prefer larger capacity bikes: I never enjoyed racing 250cc machines because I didn't really fit on them very well and didn't feel part of the bike. Physically, I feel more comfortable and natural on the Kawasaki.

How do you get along with all the technology on the bike?

It's really high tech, with all the components. It's good. I think you can certainly use electronics to improve but at the moment, for example, I'm still riding like it doesn't have traction control, like a 250cc bike. It's one of the things I have to learn.

What do you feel needs specific attention?

I just need to keep working to find a good set up for my riding style, learning where the limits are on the bike, figuring out what works to help me go faster and what doesn't… It's like a big puzzle and it's just a question of figuring out how to put it all together.

How do you get on with your team mate, Randy de Puniet?

We got on quite well in the 250cc world championship. We don't see much of each other at the moment but we do chat a bit now and then. It's good!

What makes you feel at home when you're travelling around the world with MotoGP and Kawasaki?

I've got a motorhome and my girlfriend, Belinda, travels with me, which helps. I just like to relax doing the usual things: listening to music, watching movies and stuff… I haven't had much time for relaxing lately, though.

Are there any races you're particularly looking forward to or dreading?

I'm not sure about a favourite but my worst has already passed: Mugello. I don't know why but I never go well there. I've also had a lot of bad luck at Phillip Island, even though it's my home race. Laguna Seca's the only track I haven't ridden before, and I'm a bit worried about the Corkscrew, which could prove interesting, but people say the rest of the track's pretty simple so hopefully it'll be ok.

What are your goals for the remainder of the 2007 season?

At the moment, I just want to improve at each race. As long as I can take another step forward at every round, that'll be ok, as I don't want to be stuck at the back. Getting in to the top ten would be ideal.

What sort of training are you undertaking?

I haven't done any weight training for a few years as I didn't want to get too big to ride 250s and I'm already a lot bigger than many riders in that series. But now, I need to. My fitness isn't bad but I need to work on my strength, as my arms are getting a bit sore! I can ride a 250cc bike all day but after one hour on the 800cc, I'm completely worn out.

Where is home?

I live just outside Salzburg, in Austria, in a little village with a big pond! It's a nice place to be and to chill out.

Are you in touch often with your family in Australia?

Yes, with my mother, brother and sister and especially my father, who I talk to every day. He's never been one of those pushy parents who put their kids on bikes when they're tiny: he's always supported me but, when I started, he didn't know the first thing about bike racing, that came from me. He's just always there, as are all my family, and I wouldn't be here without them.

And you're not the only Australian in the series…

No, there's Casey Stoner and Chris Vermeulen… I don't really know them, we just say hello in the paddock and that's it. Ultimately, we want to beat each other! But one thing we have in common is knowing how hard it is to come from Australia to European-based racing. That's not easy.

Why the number 13?

Everybody says 13 is unlucky: it's my way of looking that in the face and not letting bad luck threaten me. I've had more than my share of that, both personally and professionally, so this is a new start.
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