Kawasaki Racing Team have now completed their motocross line-up for their assault on the 2007 FIM MX1 World Championships with the signing of twenty year old Billy MacKenzie (GBR) who has agreed terms for a one year deal, riding for the Dutch based factory team of Jan De Groot.
Mackenzie, a double Japanese Grand Prix winner and podium contender this year will race along side his new team mate, the experienced Kawasaki rider Tanel Leok in the prestigious MX1 Class onboard a KX450F-SR machine. The likeable young Scot has produced some memorable races earlier in the year and climbed onto the podium on several occasions, as he did in Japan he has set his sights high for the forthcoming seasons where he sees himself benefiting from the wealth of experience on offer from new Team Manager Jan De Groot.
Billy MacKenzie (GBR, Yamaha) in Teutschenthal (GER)
Photo by: Jens Pohl
Jan De Groot : "There are a lot of riders wanting to move up to the MX1 class where we have a very strong commitment. Billy MacKenzie is a talented rider who as a double Japanese Grand Prix winner and been on the podium several times this year and one who I see rides with his heart. He is strong and confident but knows himself that he needs to improve on consistency, he is maturing and with a past reputation with Kawasaki I am confident that we can work very well together. Both Tanel and Billy are self motivating people that MX1 Championship has lost some familiar faces for 2007 and it is basically anyoneís championship, from our riders, our technical staff and myself we will be working very hard to ensure that we have the best possibility of winning the world championship title for Kawasaki."
The MX1 class for 2007 will be one of the most open competitions on record with the retirement announcement of Stefan Everts a former World Champion for Kawasaki and De Groot, young, motivated riders like Tanel Leok and Billy MacKenzie hope that they too can carry off the top world honours like Everts who was once groomed by their team manager.
Billy MacKenzie: "Iím so excited about joining the Kawasaki Racing Team! Being a factory rider is something I have thought about a lot and it was Kawasakiís commitment to motocross and its development that was a huge part of making this decision. I think most MX2 ridersí thoughts about the MX1 class are that itís a little easier in some ways because you donít have to push the bike so hard but with the amount of new riders going to the class for 2007 it is absolutely going to be the premium class and one of the best World Championships in a while. I know my weaknesses but I am confident in my size, strength and ability that I can make a good shout for the top three of the Championship on the KX450F-SR. My consistency has let me down in the past but I am sure that Jan can start to bring out the best in me once we start working together."
MacKenzie has represented his country at the Motocross of Nations and has been reselected for the forthcoming event to be staged in England at the end of September. Stepping up for the MX1 challenge, ĎMací as he is known will replace Stephen Sword in the KRT squad, but twenty six year old Stephen Sword, a regular in the Kawasaki Racing Team for the past three seasons will continue to ride under the Kawasaki banner switching teams and classes for 2007.
Stephen Sword (GBR, Kawasaki) in Teutschenthal (GER)
Photo by: Jens Pohl
Stephen Sword: "All my confidence and achievements have been in MX2. I am immediately quite confident in myself moving back to the 250 class where I know I have the speed and if I can get myself up to 100% and prepare myself well then I can win. I will have good people around to push me in that direction I am pleased to be in the Molson line up, I was with the team back when it was MJ Church Kawasaki at the start, it was good then and they took me up a level as a rider. I think they have improved to the point where they are now one of the best teams in the paddock, their structure and way to work is very professional and I believe they have all the attributes to be able to win a World Championship.Ē
Sword a former multi national British Champion won the Dutch Championship in 2005 for De Groot, and he will now complete in the MX2 FIM World and domestic British Championships next season for Molson Kawasaki Racing.
Lisa Church - Molson Kawasaki Team Manager: "We are thrilled to have signed Swordy because we know that we are working with one of the fastest British riders with a very good record of results, the profile of the team has soared this season and with Gareth (Swanepoel) and Stephen now confirmed for next year we will again be one of the MX2 championship threats both at home and abroad."
His current team manager - Jan De Groot added: "I am delighted that Stephen Sword has agreed to stay with Kawasaki for the next two years. He has been a very good rider during the last three seasons for us, and it was unfortunate for him to pick up a severe injury earlier in the season, I am pleased that he is making good progress and enthusiastic about returning to racing, he has a strong will and is a worthy championship contender, I am sure that he will succeed in MX2 next season."
Steve Guttridge - Kawasaki Europeís Team Green Co-ordinator on MX1 Changes: "Itís great to have signed Tanel Leok again for next year and for sure he will be a serious contender for what will be a very open MX1 Championship in 2007. I watched his new team mate, Billy MacKenzie at this years Japanese GP win a race and from not such a great start. I never saw someone commit to getting to the front as quickly as he did it. He is a fast rider and Iím sure with Kawasakiís help we can make him go faster and on a more regular basis.Ē ďIím also very happy that we could create an opportunity to help Stephen Sword move back into the MX2 class with our Factory supported Molson Kawasaki team. He has lead World Championships for us on the KX250F and Iím sure with full fitness he will do the same for us again in the future."
Christophe Pourcel (FRA, Kawasaki) in Teutschenthal (GER)
Photo by: Jens Pohl
Kawasaki have also concluded an impressive deal which will again strengthen their presence in World Motocross with the re-signing of two of Franceís leading talents. In the MX2 class, current championship leader Christophe Pourcel of the GPKR Team has agreed a three year deal which will see the sensational French teenager racing in both Europe and America, firstly in the grand prix series for one year before moving to the USA for an assault at the AMA Supercross and Outdoor National Series. Elder brother Sébastien Pourcel will also continue to compete for Kawasaki through the GPKR Team but with a new challenge switching categories and moving up into the MX1 class aboard a KX450F ride, while sixteen year old Gregory Aranda will round of the teamís efforts in the MX2 and French domestic championship.
Sébastien Pourcel (FRA, Kawasaki) in Teutschenthal (GER)
Photo by: Jens Pohl
Riding under the livery of the GPKR Team in 2007 will also be Womenís World Cup motocross star Livia Lancelot, runner up and third in this years World Cup Championship the eighteen year old is relocated to Belgium to be near to the team and help her prepare and improve by riding and training with the Pourcel brothers. The Womenís World Cup has attracted a lot of media attention and continues to grow in popularity; Kawasakiís Katherine Prumm is the current ladies champion.
Livia Lancelot (FRA, Yamaha) in Teutschenthal (GER)
Photo by: Jens Pohl
Sébastien Pourcel: "I will enter a new challenge next season in the MX1 class; I will have new rivals even if several MX2 riders are moving to MX1 next season with me. Iíve a good feeling on the KX450F, I donít need to push as hard as with the KX250F and I really enjoyed racing the first few internationals on this bike. My first goal was to get a final podium in the MX2 class before moving to the bigger category, but I think that now is the right moment for me to change. Iím pleased to continue with GPKR Team, I feel confident in this team where I work closely with the staff, one of the main advantages to stay with them is that they know how I work and I know how they work, I wonít loose time in discovering a new team, we have the right combination to start working right now."
Miss Livia Lancelot: "Itís a big step for me but of course Iím delighted to join such a famous team and have the opportunity to race and train with the Pourcels. When they approached me I was really surprised but glad that Kawasaki also takes the womenís racing seriously, Iím convinced that itís the best way to improve my results. I have known the Pourcel family for a long time and for sure it will be a sacrifice to leave my family and move to Belgium but I couldnít refuse their offer. I missed out on the Womenís World Cup title this year for just a few details, Iím sure that I will be much stronger for the 2007 World Cup. It will be my main goal."
For team manager Roger Pourcel, father of Christophe and Sebastien, this announcement was the best he could expect. "Of course Iím happy that Christophe stays another year with us, itís his own choice and itís great for us to see that he will be part of our team for a second year in a row. His decision means a lot for me, it proves that he is happy in our young team and weíll do our best to give him and his team-mates the best support and material. I was dreaming to have for next season this line-up, and Iím also glad to keep the same mechanics and technicians with us. We are a young team but we proved this season that we were able to race for the title, thanks to the support of Kawasaki and all our partners. Now weíll be even more motivated for the last Grand Prix; Christophe will have a free mind as he announced his decision, while Sébastien will be more confident after his podium in Namur."
Patrick Gelade - Racing Manager GPKR Team: "We are of course proud and glad to have Christophe with us for another MX2 season, I know that it will put some extra pressure on the team, but weíll do again our best to support him in the series. Itís a new challenge for our young team, sportively as well as financially, and weíre happy to see that Kawasaki was always supporting us during the negotiations. When I say Kawasaki, I mean in Europe as well as Japan and in the USA, they all worked together to offer Christophe what he wanted and to keep him with the brand. Christophe is a ďGreenĒ boy and will stay in the Team Green family for three more years, thatís important for Kawasaki. I want also to thank Kawasaki as they allowed us to keep Sebastien in our structure on a KX450F, itís an exception as usually itís Jan De Groot who has the MX1 riders in his team."
Steve Guttridge - Kawasaki Europeís Team Green Co-ordinator on MX2 confirmed the good news. "Weíve made a rapid progression with the team since helping it to establish late last year. Kawasaki recognise the talents of the Pourcel brothers and the efforts made by the GPKR Team so we have enabled Christophe to remain in the MX2 Grand Prixís for one more season on Kawasaki and then helping him to move directly and easily into the Pro Circuit Kawasaki team for 2008 and 2009 seasons. Christophe has been a fantastic rider for Team Green since he was just 6 years old riding on KX machines and now continues for a further three years. He is still only 17 years old but even competing at the highest levels in the sport, he displays mature and clever riding and has retained the Championship red leaderís number plate for the better part of the season. It is obviously his and Kawasakiís goal to convert that lead into a world title in the next few weeks. Sebastienís move up to MX1 for next season is the best overall option for him and the team, Iím sure he will surprise a few people next season as a newcomer to the class! Itís also nice for the team to be seen to help the young upcoming riders such as Gregory Aranda and the top French female rider Livia Lancelot. For the entire GPKR Team, Kawasaki is expecting big things from them all in 2007."
He summarised: "Added to that the strengths of Sword, Swanepoel, Church and our current Womens World Cup Champion Katherine Prumm in the Molson Kawasaki team and the strength and potential of Jan de Groots KRT then we really are showing just how comitted Kawasaki are to continuing to be a serious force in World Championship Motocross in the future with our awesome KX250 and KX450 Fourstrokes!"