It's an open secret that Kawasaki are trying to hire a top racing talent to do justice to their current MotoGP bike. Although both Randy de Puniet and Anthony West are doing very well on the updated Ninja ZX-RR, the Kawasaki Racing Team feel they need an experienced and talented rider to put their machine on the box, where they feel it belongs.
And now, it seems, a decision could be near. Motorcycle News is reporting that Kawasaki will announce that they have signed either Loris Capirossi, Marco Melandri or John Hopkins at the Sachsenring MotoGP round in Germany on the weekend of July 15th. Loris Capirossi is believed to be the most likely name to be signed, as the Italian veteran is deeply unhappy at his treatment by Ducati. He has been waiting for Ducati to make him a new offer, but Ducati are not in any hurry, after Capirossi's poor performance so far this year. Indeed, Capirossi could even be jeopardizing his own chances of signing with Kawasaki by holding out. As each week passes, and Capirex finishes way down the order, his market price falls, and doubts grow about his ability to adapt to the 800s.
Marco Melandri is probably the second choice for Kawasaki, but Melandri looks close to doing a deal with Ducati to take Capirossi's place. But Melandri is also not making himself popular, after making extremely disparaging remarks about the Honda RC212V, saying it is "the worst bike I have ridden in MotoGP, worse than the 2003 Yamaha," alienating his team boss Fausto Gresini, and raising doubts about his ability to function with a team.
John Hopkins is the name who is most in demand, but Hopper is sitting pretty at Suzuki. The GSV-R keeps getting better, and Hopkins is getting closer and closer to the front, so there seems little reason for the American to jump ship to a bike which is probably about equal with the Suzuki.
Where this leaves Ant West is the question. West has been very impressive in his first two races, and although Randy de Puniet is likely to be offered another contract by Kawasaki for next year, the team are likely to become ever less keen to let West go. The only way out of that dilemma would be for Kawasaki to run a third bike, something which Dorna is very keen for both Kawasaki and Suzuki to do, to increase the grid size. But Kawasaki have yet to confirm any action taken on this.