Randy de Puniet finished today's Turkish Grand Prix in eighth place, his best result to date since moving up to the MotoGP class with Kawasaki at the start of the 2006 season.
De Puniet's race didn't get off to the best start, after difficulties getting
his Ninja ZX-RR off the line dropped him back to 13th place at turn one, but he recovered quickly as he chased hard to catch the group of riders ahead of him.
De Puniet's consistency, combined with the impressive performance of his Bridgestone tyres, allowed the Kawasaki pilot to bridge the gap to current championship leader Valentino Rossi, who was the last man in a six-way battle for third place, with just five laps of the race remaining.
De Puniet was quick to put in a pass on Rossi for eighth place in the final turn, but the Italian managed to retake the position on the main straight. The Kawasaki rider eventually made the pass stick at turn four, but by then, with just three laps left to run, the gap to the ongoing battle for the final podium position was too big to bridge.
But eighth place, just 14 seconds behind race winner Casey Stoner (Ducati), is de Puniet's best result in the premier class to date, and one on which he is keen to improve on further as the season progresses.
But while de Puniet was satisfied with the performance of himself and his Ninja ZX-RR today, his Kawasaki teammate, Olivier Jacque, was left battered and bruised after crashing out of the race on the opening lap.
The 33-year-old Kawasaki rider moved to the inside of the track to pass Alex Barros (Ducati) and Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) on the run down to the final turn, but with his view obscured by other riders Jacque missed his braking marker and got into the final turn too hot.
Realising his mistake, Jacque tried to look for a gap through which to run on, but was unable to avoid colliding with the rear of Colin Edward's Yamaha at the apex of the turn.
Jacque and Edwards both crashed as a result of the collision, with Dani Pedrosa (Honda) and Vermeulen also crashing whilst taking avoiding action.
Jacque was lucky to escape with just a sore head and a bruised coccyx, but these minor injuries are enough to rule him out of Kawasaki's planned development test at the Istanbul Park circuit tomorrow.
Randy de Puniet :
"I got a pretty bad start today. I don't know what happened, but the bike didn't respond immediately when I released the clutch. I was making up the places again, but then I made another mistake on the back straight. I was ninth at the end of the first lap and not far from the leading group. I had a nice fight with Barros and Hayden but in two laps I lost about three seconds trying to pass Rossi. I finally did it four laps to the end but the gap with the front guys was too big and I could only keep my pace and finish in eighth position. I am happy because I felt good and got mine and my team's best result of the season, though I am sure that if I hadn't had a bad start I could have finished in a better position. I will try again in China.”
Olivier Jacque :
"I am really sorry about what happened and there are no excuses: I made a mistake. I got a decent start and I was feeling good. It was a big group and I saw a good opportunity to make places up after the fast turn into the chicane. I was in the middle of the group and I missed my braking marker and when I braked it was too late. There was no space. I had no way out and couldn't avoid touching Edward's rear wheel. I made high flight and landed on my coccyx. I thought I had broken it, as it was really painful, but luckily it is not. Now I still feel a little bit dizzy but I feel even worse for the team as we had worked really hard throughout the weekend and the bike was feeling very good. I'm really looking forward to China to work even harder and reward them.”
Michael Bartholemy :
"From the start of this weekend you could see that we've made a significant improvement to our Ninja ZX-RR since the last race in Jerez, which meant we went into today's race confident of a strong performance. Randy rode a good race to score his best result since moving up to the MotoGP class, but if we continue to work hard on the development of the bike, as we have over the past three weeks, then I don't think it will be long before he's able to improve further on this result. I have to say that the performance of his Bridgestone tyres definitely helped him today. With eight out of the top ten finishers, I think Bridgestone can be happy with their performance here in Istanbul. Olivier was also capable of securing a good result today, so it was disappointing that he crashed out on the opening lap. He has held his hands up and accepted it was his mistake, but I'm sorry for Colin Edwards and the others who were caught up in the crash. Olivier had a bang on the head and has badly bruised his lower back, so he won't test tomorrow, but he should be fully fit again for Shanghai."