Former 250cc world champion Olivier Jacque will return to full time racing as part of Kawasaki's new look MotoGP squad in 2007, when he will attempt to finally crack the premier-class at the age of 33.
Jacque began racing at 17 and has been on two wheels ever since, progressing through the French national 125cc series, the 250cc European championship and then to the 250cc world championship with the Tech3 Yamaha Team. After winning the world title Jacque and Tech3 moved up to the premier 500cc and then MotoGP class – but OJ was unable to replicate his 250cc success.
Nevertheless, Jacque made a spectacular return as a wild-card for Kawasaki in the 2005 Chinese Grand Prix when he finished a superb second, behind only Valentino Rossi, at a soaking wet Shanghai. That result is still Kawasaki's best in MotoGP (it was matched by Shinya Nakano
at Assen last season) and led to a full time role as a test and development rider.
With Nakano moving to Honda for 2007, Jacque received his 'dream' promotion to the position of full time race rider alongside young countryman Randy de Puniet...
After two years as test rider for Kawasaki, what was your reaction when you were asked to become a full time race rider in MotoGP for the 2007 season?
It was a dream come true, and in some ways it was a complete surprise, but a very pleasant surprise. Actually, I was hoping to have been a race rider with Kawasaki in 2006 but they selected a young guy instead and I can understand the reasons for that decision. At the end of the 2005 season my performances were not that strong so it made sense for Kawasaki to sign a young rider for the future. But now this race contract is like a new beginning in my career.
You stayed in the Kawasaki family as a test rider in 2006, but had you given up hope that one day you could return to MotoGP racing?
Not really, but I was happy to accept the position of test rider which has been a very interesting experience. But I did become a little bored by not racing. I was doing many, many laps which was important for Kawasaki to improve the bike but this is not like the challenge of racing, which is a great personal satisfaction. And then, at the end of last season when I knew that Shinya Nakano
was leaving Kawasaki I told the team that, if there was an opportunity, I wanted to race again, because I missed racing.
So you never lost the motivation to be back racing full time?
No. I had a very strong motivation to race again, and a very strong desire that it should be with Kawasaki because I really like the way they work in MotoGP. Plus Kawasaki is a relatively new team to MotoGP and this project, now with the 800cc regulations, is very interesting. It was also an attraction to work with people I knew from my 250cc career, like Ichiro Yoda (Racing Director), who trusts in me. And the grand prix team is a young team, with a good outlook, this appealed to me.
Do you think your background as a test and development rider with Kawasaki will be of benefit now you are in the race team?