Kawasaki are on the verge of a major breakthrough in MotoGP - and the hiring of a top-line rider could be all it takes for the Japanese manufacturer to start challenging for wins.
That is the view of Fiat Yamaha's crew chief Jeremy Burgess, who believes that the threat from Kawasaki can no longer be ignored.
His comments come just days after autosport.com revealed that John Hopkins' management team had opened talks with Kawasaki about a ride for 2008 and that Loris Capirossi is another possibility for the team next year.
"The Kawasaki is now a bike to be looked at with respect, because it doesn't just handle well, it's also quick," Burgess told Motosprint magazine.
"If they had Valentino they wouldn't be far from the top: he's the kind of guy that can guarantee you at least half a second a lap, every lap, under any condition, and you can do the maths then.
"In my opinion they need one last step forward with the engine. As soon as they do that, and after they take a rider of the highest level, they will be at the top as well."