Shanghai : Kawasaki - Day One
Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet got his Chinese Grand Prix weekend off to a solid start, finishing today's opening free practice sessions eleventh fastest, but confident of improving his lap times further tomorrow.
De Puniet had his first
opportunity today to evaluate the latest evolution of Kawasaki's Ninja ZX-RR engine, in the revised chassis that he tested in Istanbul immediately after the Turkish Grand Prix.
The latest engine combines higher revs with more top end power and a much smoother delivery, which de Puniet put to good use this morning to record the fifth fastest speed through the speed trap at the end of Shanghai's 1200 metre straight.
The 26-year-old Frenchman is confident that the combination of new engine and revised chassis will allow him to further improve his lap time with more track time tomorrow. De Puniet will be Kawasaki's only rider on track tomorrow, after Olivier Jacque crashed out of this afternoon's second free practice session just 17 minutes from the end.
The 33-year-old Frenchman went down hard in the final turn and, while the crash didn't look to be serious at first, the Kawasaki pilot suffered a deep, open wound to the inside of his right forearm, which was bleeding profusely by the time Jacque had walked from the corner to the medical centre.
After an initial examination of the wound by Clinica Mobile staff, Jacque was airlifted to the Huashan hospital in Shanghai, where surgeons operated to clean debris from the wound and repair damage to the brachioraliasis and flexor muscles in his forearm.
The former World 250cc Champion will return home to France this evening, where he will undergo further surgery to close the wound, which may require minor skin grafts.
Randy de Puniet
« We've had a successful start to the weekend, although my final position on the timesheet doesn't really reflect that. The new engine is a definite improvement, especially at the very top of the rev range where we've maybe lost out to the competition in the past. Now the top speed is good, although riders always want more, and I was happy to see us top five through the speed trap this morning. For most of today we've concentrated on finding a good suspension set-up for the race, and we will continue to work on this ahead of qualifying tomorrow. I'm pretty confident that, even with the set-up we have now, it's possible to improve my lap time further tomorrow ahead of the all-important qualifying session."
“We have suffered a setback with Olivier's crash but overall the assessment of this first practice sessions has been positive. We tried different set-ups with Randy and Olivier and found a good direction to work for tomorrow. The new rear suspension parts have meant a positive step forward as well as the engine evolution. But we are 0.7 seconds from the top, which means that we have to find out which are our weakest points and work on them tomorrow. We are not sure of the weather conditions tomorrow, though we have a clear plan regardless of the prevailing conditions. Olivier was trying some new chassis components as well and improving his lap times. Unfortunately, he crashed almost at the end of the afternoon's session and now I can only say that I wish him a speedy recovery.”
"At the moment it's not clear how Olivier received the injury to his forearm, but the most likely cause is that his arm was trapped under the bike in the crash. While the injury is not serious, it is certainly painful and it's likely to cause Olivier some discomfort over the next few weeks. At the moment it's impossible to say how long the injury will keep him off the bike, but we should have a better idea once he's undergone further surgery in France to close the wound. Of course, we hope that Olivier will be fit to ride in his home race at Le Mans in two weeks time, but at the moment it looks unlikely that this will be the case. If it proves impossible for him to ride then we will have to look at the possibility of fielding a temporary replacement at Le Mans, as the French Grand Prix is a very important race for Kawasaki."