Hacking to MotoGP

Henny Ray Abrams | July 10, 2008

HOHENSTEIN-ERNSTHAL, GERMANY, JULY 10: It’s official: Monster Kawasaki’s Jamie Hacking will make his MotoGP debut at next weekend’s Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The news, which was first reported here earlier this week, was confirmed in a press release issued by Kawasaki at the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring. Attempts to reach Hacking at the time were unsuccessful. The press release makes clear why: He was in Japan testing the ZXRR for two days at Kawasaki’s Autopolis test track. The confirmation of Hacking’s ride ends what little hope Roger Lee Hayden had of returning to the scene of his MotoGP debut. Hayden rode the ZXRR to tenth in last year’s Red Bull U.S.GP. But he’s been out for most of the season recovering from injuries suffered when he was knocked down in Superbike qualifying at Barber Motorsports Park. It was only on Wednesday that he got back on a road race machine, during an extraordinary test at Willow Springs International Raceway. Hacking will join Ben Spies, one of his best friends, in doing double duty at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Both face a schedule that will have them jumping almost immediately from their Superbikes to their GP machines or vice versa. Both have had been successful this season, with Spies more so. But Hacking heads to Laguna on the strength of six podium finishes in a row, including a pair of seconds. He’s been, by far, the most consistent of the non-Suzukis, though he admits the team has a long way to go. The same can be said for the Kawasaki MotoGP machine. Hopkins has had three serious crashes, the latest the most injurious, while trying to get the upgraded ZXRR up to pace. In qualifying for the end of June Dutch TT at Assen, Hopkins sustained a fracture to the bottom of his tibia, which reopened a previous fracture, the result of a crash earlier in his racing career. There was also a fracture to the lateral malleolus, which is one of the bones at the top of the ankle. He’ll miss this weekend’s race in Germany and next weekend’s Red Bull U.S. GP. Then the MotoGP season heads into the summer break, giving him until mid-August to get healthy. “I’m really excited about riding Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-RR in the USGP at Laguna Seca,” Hacking said in Kawasaki’s release. “We’ve just completed two days of testing with the bike in Japan, and I felt pretty comfortable straight away. It’s an amazing machine. I can’t believe how sophisticated the electronics package is on the bike; already it feels like you can open the gas impossibly early out of the turns, but the data shows that it’s actually possible to open the throttle even earlier. To do this requires some confidence in the electronics, and that confidence will only come with more track time on the bike. Roger Lee set the benchmark at this race last year with an outstanding tenth place finish, so that’s certainly given me something to aim for. Laguna is one of my best tracks, but I’m under no illusions how hard it’s going to be. I’ll be up against some of the best riders in the world on a bike on which I’ve only had limited testing time. If I come away from the weekend with a top ten finish, then I’ll be happy.” Said team Michael Bartholemy, “Given his results in this year’s AMA Superbike championship, Jamie was the obvious choice for Kawasaki when the factory started looking for a temporary replacement for John Hopkins. We are looking forward to seeing what he can do on our bike at Laguna Seca, especially after he broke the lap record at Kawasaki’s Autopolis circuit in Japan during two days of testing on the Ninja ZX-RR this week. One big advantage that Jamie has is that he knows the track extremely well, and I think that will count in his favour, as it will allow him to focus completely on the bike during the race weekend. Roger Lee set a hard target last year by finishing as the first American across the line in tenth place, but I’m sure that Jamie is heading to the USGP determined to do even better! I’m sure that he will do a good job for us at Laguna.”

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.