Kawasaki has promoted test rider Olivier Jacque to race alongside Randy de Puniet in the 2007 MotoGP World Championship.

With star rider Shinya Nakano leaving for Konica Minolta Honda after three seasons in green, Kawasaki wanted an experienced campaigner to replace the Japanese, alongside 2006 rookie de Puniet, in order to best develop the team's new 800cc machine.

With limited rider options from amongst the current field, Kawasaki has opted for former 250cc world champion Jacque, whom it knows well after several seasons in a development role. OJ also took a shock second place finish, on his ZX-RR debut in place of the injured Alex Hofmann, at the wet 2005 Chinese Grand Prix.

"For sure I'm very happy to have been given this opportunity by Kawasaki," declared the 33-year-old Frenchman, who was a full time MotoGP rider with Yamaha from 2001-2003. "To be honest, after finishing second in Shanghai one year ago, I was expecting the call up last season. But, the circumstances were not right and the decision was made to go with a young head - but now the old head is back!

"With a new bike to develop for next season experience will be important, and I'm pleased that Kawasaki view me as the person to help develop their new 800cc Ninja ZX-RR. It is good to have the hard work we've done in developing this season's bike into a competitive package recognised with a full-time ride for the factory team.

"What feels strange for me is that, despite so many years in grand prix racing, this will be the first full factory team I have ridden for since winning the 250cc world title in 2000. I'm certainly looking forward to the challenge ahead, and I can't wait to test the new bike for the first time later this month," he concluded.

"This year I was lucky to have a good working relationship with an experienced team-mate like Shinya, and I hope that Olivier and I can develop the same open style of working during winter testing," added de Puniet. "We've yet to test the new 800cc machine, but the general consensus is that the new bikes will be more like a 250cc machine to ride, and I think that will suit both me and Olivier, with our quarter litre experience."

2007 will be de Puniet's second year in MotoGP and - despite a best race finish of tenth in his debut season - his impressive one-lap speed has convinced Kawasaki racing director Kenichi Furuhashi that he can become a future team leader.

"Randy has had a solid start to his MotoGP career, and we truly believe he has the potential to be one of the fastest riders in the MotoGP class," said Furuhashi. "In his second year with Kawasaki we need to work closely with Randy to ensure that he has the opportunity to realise fully this potential. I'm confident that he will adapt quickly to the new 800cc machine during winter testing, and that we will see a marked improvement in his race results next season.

"When it came to replacing Shinya Nakano in the team for next season, Olivier Jacque was the obvious choice for Kawasaki. He has worked tirelessly this year on the development of the current Ninja ZX-RR, and these development skills will be critical to the success of Kawasaki's 800cc machine next year. Also, we have seen from his performances during testing this season that Olivier still has the speed needed to compete in MotoGP. Just as importantly, he is a proven team player, and teamwork will be key to our success next year.

"For Kawasaki, the new 800cc capacity limit for MotoGP is a welcome change. When we returned to Grand Prix racing in 2002, we were at a disadvantage compared to our factory rivals, who had all amassed a lot of experience during our absence from the premier series. We have learnt a lot in the last four years, which means we will start the 800cc era of MotoGP racing at the same level as our competitors. I hope that, together with our riders, we will have the opportunity to write another chapter in Kawasaki's racing history next year," he concluded.

As well as Jacque's Chinese podium, Kawasaki has taken two further MotoGP rostrums, both courtesy of Nakano.