After the highs and lows of the Malaysian Grand Prix, Randy de Puniet and Anthony West of the Kawasaki Racing Team will be heading to Spain this week, for the final round of the MotoGP World Championship at Valencia.
Sunday's race will mark the end of an era for de Puniet, who leaves Kawasaki for pastures new in 2008. This year has seen the 26-year-old develop in to one of the fastest men on the circuit and his recent results, including a second place at Motegi, illustrate how far both he and the 800cc Ninja ZX-RR have progressed throughout the season.
De Puniet has a successful history at the 4km, Ricardo Tormo track, having won the 250cc World Championship round there in 2003 and getting a third the following year, adding to a number of other top ten finishes at the venue. Last year, on the 990cc ZX-RR, he was not so lucky, crashing out on the fifth lap, so he'll certainly want to improve on that result. Judging by his recent performances, the Frenchman will be able to do just that.
West, looking stronger on the bike at every round, hopes, this weekend, to at least equal his best MotoGP qualifying position of fifth at Sepang. An error on the start line in Malaysia, when he positioned his bike incorrectly on the grid and received a ride-through penalty, cost him dearly. So the 26-year-old's priority, therefore, is to avoid any more "rookie mistakes", keep his mind on the job in hand and test the Ninja to the max around Valencia's technical layout.
And, like all the MotoGP riders, he hopes for a grand finale to an incredible year, which has seen the 26-year-old Australian quit the 250cc World Championship, then ride three races (winning two) in World Supersport, before being offered the opportunity of a lifetime to join Kawasaki's factory team in MotoGP.
Completed in 1999 and hosting its first premier class race the same year, Valencia's Ricardo Tormo circuit has three optional tracks and the Grand Prix one boasts nine left handers and five rights: most of them pretty tight. With its high grandstands and amphitheatrical layout, it's a dream for fans and many thousands flock to the last round of the season to get a good look at the bikes and riders on their final outing of the year.
It should prove a great race, despite the championship itself having been decided at Motegi last month. With the traditional, and vocal, support of the fans and every rider out to finish the season on a high, it'll be one to watch.