Anthony West is a remarkable rider. He inspires extraordinary devotion amongst his fans (some even going so far as to offer to sell their kidneys to help fund competitive machinery), and equal parts admiration and misgiving among team owners and sponsors. West's talent goes without question, as whenever the circumstances have allowed the Australian to compete on his usually outclassed equipment, he has been a genuine factor to contend with, finishing well, and even winning, wet races. His two outings on the Yamaha Supersport bike have ended in a 3rd (in the dry at Monza) and a win (at Silverstone in the pouring rain). The margin of West's victory at Silverstone led many people to wonder why this man's talent hadn't been recognized earlier. Yet sponsors are wary of the Australian, whose frankness might best be described as taking openness to a new level. Never afraid to criticize either the bike or the team, he is a fan's dream, and a sponsor's nightmare.
West is at Misano this weekend, currently riding the Yamaha Motor Italia Supersport machine. He left his Team Sicilia ride in the 250 class last week, citing organizational and financial problems, and joined Yamaha in World Supersport to fill in for the injured Kevin Curtain. And yet already the rumors surrounding West have started: It is being whispered in the World Supersport paddock that this will be West's last race for the Yamaha team (despite having just signed a contract with them), and that the young Australian is off to join an unnamed MotoGP team.
Though the rumors carefully avoid naming teams, the obvious candidate would be Kawasaki. After testing for the Kawasaki team in place of the injured Olivier Jacque and Randy de Puniet at Catalunya this week, it was being suggested that West could take OJ's place at Kawasaki. The French veteran has made a miserable return to racing so far this season, and there are serious doubts about his motivation to race at the very highest level. West could be just the man that Kawasaki need to push the ZXRR Ninja to the front of the field. The team have great confidence in the bike (as de Puniet's 5th spot at Catalunya so clearly demonstrated), but feel their riders have so far failed to perform, and taking someone as hungry, and as obviously talented as Anthony West could be a short-cut to better results.
Whether this is just the fevered imagination of the motorcycle racing paddock, or reality, we shall have to see. More news as it becomes available.
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