Targeting top ten finishes
Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet heads for the Far East, ahead of this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, determined to improve on his career best finish last time out in Istanbul.
The 26-year-old Kawasaki pilot finished eighth, just 14
seconds behind race winner Casey Stoner, in Istanbul two weeks ago and he will arrive in China confident that the improvements made to his Ninja ZX-RR during the post race test in Turkey will prove decisive this weekend in Shanghai.
De Puniet's Kawasaki teammate, Olivier Jacque, arrives in China determined to make amends for his opening lap crash in the Turkish Grand Prix two weeks ago. While most riders count the Shanghai circuit amongst their least favourite tracks, the place holds fond memories for Jacque. Back in 2005, making his debut for Kawasaki in place of the injured Alex Hofmann, Jacque rode a superb race in appalling conditions to claim an incredible second place behind the then reigning world champion, Valentino Rossi.
But the 33-year-old Frenchman is under no illusions about how difficult it will be to repeat his podium performance this time around, and he heads into the race on Sunday with the realistic aim of securing his first top ten finish of the season.
The 5.45 km Shanghai circuit is the most modern motorsport facility in the world and, at some 1200 metres in length, features the longest straight on the MotoGP calendar. The riders will hit speeds in excess of 300 km/h on the straight, before getting hard on the brakes for the 60 km/h, first gear hairpin at Turn 14.
This is a critical point in the lap, where late braking can easily secure an improvement in position, but can just as easily lead to an off-track excursion into the run-off area at the end of the straight. It's a unique challenge that is unrivalled at any other circuit.
Randy de Puniet
"Scoring my best MotoGP result last time out in Istanbul, together with a very positive post race test, means that I arrive in Shanghai really excited about the race. But, I have to say, although the Shanghai circuit is an impressive one in terms of the facilities, the track itself is not particularly inspiring. In fact, in my opinion as a rider, it's one of the worst tracks we race at because it's just so boring. It's really just two long straights connected by a sequence of mostly slow corners. The most difficult part is turn 14, which you arrive at doing almost 300 km/h off the back straight. To get through this turn safely you need to almost stop the bike before turning in, and it's quite difficult to judge the best braking point. At this track you need a bike that is fast and well balanced. Also, qualifying is critical, because there are not so many overtaking opportunities here. I'm fairly confident we can aim for the second row in qualifying and, with a good start, a top ten finish in the race is a realistic possibility."
"I guess it's fair to say that the season hasn't started how I was hoping. The first race was a fairly positive start, but the second in Jerez was a nightmare. And then, after seeing the improvement in the bike during practice and qualifying in Istanbul, I was really optimistic for the race. What can I say; I screwed up by crashing on the opening lap. It was the first time in my career that this has happened to me. On the Monday I was both physically and psychologically devastated, but my bruises are healing and I need to think only about this weekend's race in Shanghai now. I am confident that a top ten finish is possible this weekend. I like this circuit, and I have fond memories of my second place here in the wet when I stood in for Alex Hofmann on the Ninja ZX-RR back in 2005. I think it will be difficult to repeat this result this time around, but that won't stop me from trying."
"We have made some improvements to our Ninja ZX-RR ahead of this race. Changes to the engine management system and rear suspension set-up meant that Randy was able to improve on his race lap times during the post race test in Istanbul, despite still suffering from his crash during free practice on Friday. I'm pretty confident that these improvements will make a big difference for both riders in China. The Shanghai circuit is mainly a stop-and-go sort of track, where the riders are either hard on the gas or hard on the brakes, with very little in between. But, with the longest straight on the MotoGP calendar, it's also a power track where top speed is really important. This weekend it will be critical for our riders to start from the front of the grid to get a good result, which would be to finish less than ten seconds from the race winner."