Since the signing of John Hopkins punched a huge hole in Kawasaki's rider budget, speculation has been rife about who would join the American in the Kawasaki garage in 2008. There had been whispers that Monster Energy, Hopkins' personal sponsor and sponsor for most of Kawasakis motorsports activity in the USA, would become the title sponsor for Kawasaki, bringing a substantial sum to the table and enabling Team Green to possibly sign another big name, and maybe even field a third bike.
Now, though, it is becoming increasingly clear that Kawasaki don't have a lot more budget room to spare, and that the team has had to scale down their ambitions when it comes to signing riders. Now, Toby Moody of Autosport.com is reporting that Kawasaki are only considering Randy de Puniet or Ant West for the role. Up until a few weeks ago, Randy de Puniet was the firm favorite for the role, the young Frenchman having impressed the team with his speed, but disappointed them with his penchant for launching the bike into the scenery. But since Ant West joined the team at the Barcelona round, the Australian has made a big impression, giving the team excellent technical feedback while scoring valuable points and showing consistent improvement.
The decision will be made in the next two weeks, and an announcement is likely after the Misano round on September 2nd.