By Mike Nicks

Garry Taylor, manager of the sensational new Maxtra 125cc project launched at the Chinese MotoGP in May, is in the paddock here at Donington seeking potential riders for the team's entry to the grand prix scene in 2009.

The former boss of the Suzuki 500cc GP team is also overjoyed that the bike completed its first track tests at the Rockingham and Mallory Park circuits in Britain this week, ridden by 125cc British championship competitor Michael Wilcox - winner of the 125cc race at the recent North West 200.

"It was very much a shakedown test," Taylor said. "We only asked him to give us lots of information. But he was riding with other riders in the British 125cc series, and it went all right considering that our bike was only two hours old."

Top names are working on the Maxtra project. Engine specialist Jan Witteveen has designed the motor, which is housed in a Harris chassis, and John Surtees, the only rider to win motorcycle and Formula 1 world titles, is the venture's patron. Chinese motorcycle manufacturer Haojue, who made 2.7 million machines last year, is behind it all.

"The engine is built in Italy, but it's a Chinese project and they own the intellectual property," Taylor said. "There's isn't an Aprilia, Honda, KTM or Fantic part in it. Once we have a baseline, we will transfer production to China."

Five Chinese engineers are accompanying Taylor at Donington, in scenes reminiscent of Japan's entry to grand prix in the late 1950s. Next step for the Maxtra: more track tests at Adria in Italy in July, and then onto one of the European grand prix circuits.

"Part of the problem is finding good test riders. We want to get input from someone with current GP experience," Taylor said, fielding a handshake every five seconds.

There's no one more popular in a motorcycle paddock than a man with a chequebook looking for a rider...