by Peter McLaren

At a time when the importance of the 250cc world championship is being questioned, particularly as a proving ground for MotoGP, new Kawasaki signing Shinya Nakano has voiced his support for the series - but admits he was surprised by the performance of former Superbike riders.

This year there will be no 250 riders stepping up to the premier-class and, with four-strokes now having replaced 500cc two-strokes, asked Shinya - a multiple 250 race winner and the 2000 championship runner-up - if he thought the class should be replaced by a four-stroke championship.

"That's a very good question because last year Colin (Edwards), Nicky (Hayden) and Troy (Bayliss) got really good results - I was surprised, because when Superbike riders came to 500cc grand prix they were nowhere," said Nakano. "But still I think 250cc is really good preparation for MotoGP.

"The 250 is a real racing bike, as a rider you learn how to set-up the bike and choose a tyre, so it's an important class," added the Japanese. "People like Valentino (Rossi) have come from there and nobody has come into MotoGP from 600cc (Supersport) at the moment, maybe that will change."

Nakano was then asked how hard the step up to the premier-class was for him, and revealed that - while he found similarities between the 250 and 500 - the new MotoGP prototypes are something else, but will be a 'big step' for any rider, no matter what their background.

"When I moved from 250 to 500 the bike was quite similar - more speed, but the character was similar," he said. "The MotoGP bike is different, mainly in terms of engine character and weight, but it's always going to be a big step moving to MotoGP no matter which class you have been in before."

Nakano, a long time Yamaha rider, will be joined by Alex Hofmann at Kawasaki this season.



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