Istanbul : Kawasaki - Preview
The well-deserved three-week break after the Spanish GP comes to an end this week with the Kawasaki Racing Team heading now to Asia for this weekend's Grand Prix of Turkey at the stunning circuit of Istanbul Park.
An anti-clockwise circuit
with a total of 14 turns at which Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet and Olivier Jacque will try to make up for the performance showed in Jerez at the second round of the 2007 season. After racing in Losail and Jerez, which held preseason tests prior to the GP's, this weekend will be the first occasion this year for all MotoGP teams and riders to ride at the undulating 5.340 km Turkish circuit.
After having qualified sixth under the rain, his best grid position up to then, Randy de Puniet finished last year's Turkish GP in twelfth position and collected the first MotoGP points of his career. Much more mature and experienced now, higher are the Frenchman's expectations for this year's race.
De Puniet's fellow countryman, Olivier Jacque, also worked hard during the tests in Jerez focusing on suspension and chassis set up. A different rear suspension configuration and the new front fork used there gave him a boost after the hard weekend he went through in Spain.
Istanbul Park is not a mystery for the 33-year-old rider, who rode there for the Kawasaki Racing Team in 2005 as a replacement for the injured Alex Hoffmann. But this time, as a factory rider, there won't be any excuses and he is certainly going to fight and put in the performance expected from a former World Champion.
Even though the Bridgestone tyres were not very well suited in the past to the low-friction Istanbul circuit, the Kawasaki Racing Team is confident about the tyre's choice they made for this race weekend after the positive test done in Qatar and following their Bridgestone technicians' advice. With the tyres pretty much decided and the satisfactory improvements tested in Jerez, now it is time for the riders and their respective crews to put everything together in a bid to get the best result of the season for the Kawasaki Racing Team in Sunday's 22-lap Turkish GP.
Randy de Puniet :
“I am really looking forward to this weekend's race. My beginning of the season was not as good as I expected it to be but Jerez was kind of a turning point. We improved a lot the bike during the tests and I left with a good feeling, which makes me face the Turkish GP with a lot of confidence. However, I don't want to be under any illusions. Istanbul Park is a nice and fast circuit; I like it! Last year it was difficult to set up the bike but I hope this time, with a year of experience, it is going to be easier. The part that I like the least is the final one, after the back straight. It is too small and slow. It is difficult to say in which position I will finish but for sure I will try my best this weekend.”
Olivier Jacque :
“We didn't have much time to rest since we started in January and this break has been great for all of us to recharge batteries and come back stronger. Now I'm really excited about getting back on the bike, and even more after the successful tests we did in Jerez. The race there was a nightmare for me, but the tests let me leave with a better taste in my mouth. I'm really eager to try the engine improvements in Istanbul. I like the track; it's quite surprising with all its ups and downs and the first high-speed corner. Definitely, we will need a powerful engine but we cannot forget the last section, which requires an easy handling bike. We don't know what to expect but I will be happy if I can finish among the first ten riders.”
Ichiro Yoda :
“Jerez race wasn't what we were expecting but we left with a very positive feeling. We tested our bike in full wet conditions for the first time as well as a new chassis, some new parts and made adjustments on the geometry to make it better handling. Rear traction, one of the main issues during the weekend, was improved and so was rider's performance. We also checked some engine parts which seemed to make the engine work better, especially in acceleration. Istanbul is a technical and low-friction circuit that combines fast and low speed sections. Last year's race was difficult, not only for Bridgestone but also for Kawasaki, but we both have improved since then. It is a fast track and we could be a little handicapped there but sure we will do better with respect to Jerez. The target is always the same one: finish in the top ten. However, we are not going to know where we are until the first practice. We still can improve the bike three or four tenths and I am confident we will do it if we keep working in that direction.”