Anthony West hopes to emulate fellow Australian Garry McCoy's career upswing in 1999 and secure a competitive ride in this year's Moto GP world championship - even though the season has begun.

West, who scored points eleven times from 14 starts in the 500cc world championship in 2001 on an underpowered Honda V-Twin, missed the start of this year's series, which began on Sunday with the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.

The 20-year old Gold Coast native was unable to secure a Moto GP ride in the off-season, but said he had remained a free agent so that he would be able to fill any opening that emerged in a leading team during the championship at short notice.

"I'm disappointed not to be going to Suzuka, but McCoy was in the same situation a few years ago and then a team changed riders mid-season and he got in there and never looked back," West pointed out.

McCoy was without a ride at the start of 1999, but was then called in to replace New Zealand's Simon Crafar in the Red Bull Yamaha team during the 500cc series, and secured his future by winning three grand prix races the following year.

"Even though I don't have a ride right now, I've kept training as hard as ever and, if there are team changes, or someone unfortunately gets hurt, then I'm ready to go straight away like McCoy was," West said, "We've told teams in the paddock if there's a hole to fill, I can jump in there quickly because there's no contracts to get out of.

"It's not the situation I wanted, but there's nothing I can do about it so I've got to be patient and wait for something to happen."

West, who finished sixth in the 250cc world championship in 2000, has scored points in 38 of his 47 grand prix starts in the past three years. In the 2001 500cc Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island, he overcame a deficit of about 60-horsepower to beat the factory V4 machines of Japan's Norick Abe, former world champion Kenny Roberts, and Spaniard Carlos Checa.

West said his attempts to secure a Moto GP ride in 2002 had been thwarted in part by a failure to secure sponsorship backing to contribute to team funds.

"In some instances, riders are getting a start because they bring money, or they are from the same country as the team's main sponsors," he said, "It's difficult for Australians because so many races are in Europe, most of the manufacturers are from Japan, and riders from those countries find it easier to get sponsorship."

Australia's five-times 500cc world champion Michael Doohan said he rated West highly.

"Anthony has a great deal of riding ability and I think that, if he was on a good motorcycle, he would be consistently in the top six," the former Honda works rider said, "When I started (in 500s) it came down to talent, but now unless you bring funding it's very hard to get into it."



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