Kawasaki Racing Team riders, Randy de Puniet and Olivier Jacque, arrive at Mugello ahead of Sunday's Italian Grand Prix still recovering from injuries sustained in their Le Mans and Shanghai crashes.
Jacque, who will make his racing return this weekend
after missing the French Grand Prix, has regained full strength in his damaged right arm, but is still suffering discomfort as a result of the burn injuries sustained in his last corner crash during free practice in China.
De Puniet arrives in Mugello keen to make up for the mistake that saw him crash out of the lead during his home race at Le Mans but, like his more experienced teammate, the 26-year-old Frenchman is carrying a reminder of his crash, in the form of a damaged right shoulder, for which he has been receiving treatment since leaving Le Mans.
Despite their injuries, both Frenchmen are determined to finally show the true potential of Kawasaki's Ninja ZX-RR this weekend around the twists and turns of the Mugello circuit, which is unrivalled for atmosphere on the Grand Prix calendar due to the amphitheatre effect of the surrounding Tuscan hills.
Before his Le Mans crash, de Puniet and the team managed to find an optimum set up on the Kawasaki 800cc Ninja ZX-RR, teamed with excellent performance from the Bridgestone tyres. It bodes well for the 26-year-old Frenchman as the bike is steadily improving as the season progresses. Hoping to improve on his two best eighth positions of the championship so far, de Puniet is confident he and the team can find a perfect set up to suit the track and conditions at Mugello.
The Mugello circuit always guarantees top racing action in front of a large and enthusiastic Italian crowd. At the very least, this weekend's race is sure to prove one of the most exciting and enjoyable rounds of the year. The Kawasaki team are ready to show what they can do but, for now, they're crossing their fingers and hoping for some spectacular, sunny conditions after the waterlogged setting of Le Mans.
Randy de Puniet
"Crashing in Le Mans was such a shame.
I was confident I could get a good result at my home GP, and I lead the race, but once again, I didn't finish. What is more, as a result of the crash, my right shoulder was damaged and I couldn't complete our two-day testing programme afterwards. Thanks to the doctor and the physiotherapy I've had since then, I'm now almost fully fit. I will need to check the situation when I get on the bike on Friday but I hope there won't be any problems regarding riding. Mugello is one of the best races of the season. The atmosphere there is amazing: you can feel all the fans' support and the track is one of the most exciting. Last year, the bike was good but we lacked top speed. In Mugello, top speed and having a good handling bike are really important and, this season, the Ninja ZX-RR has shown it meets both requirements. Braking stability is also important, especially just after the fast, main straight. It's not a critical track in terms of tyres and, even though we couldn't test them fully in Le Mans, we really trust in Bridgestone as they're doing a great job. I'm confident we can run a good race in Mugello, although we will have to work very hard, step-by-step, from Friday onwards. The target is to finish among the first eight again, although I hope to get a better result than in Istanbul and China."
"I'm really looking forward to arriving in Mugello on Wednesday. It was so hard for me to withdraw from the race in Le Mans, my home Grand Prix, because of my injured arm but it was physically impossible for me to race. I saw it on television, though, and I was so proud of the Kawasaki Racing Team's performance during practice, qualifying and the beginning of the race. But, on the other hand, I was really disappointed, as I really like riding under those conditions! I also felt sorry for Randy because it was a good opportunity for him to get a good result. Anyway, now I am ready to get back on the bike. The doctor removed the stitches from my arm last week and since then I have worked really hard, following an intense programme of physiotherapy. I've recovered the strength in the arm and, even though it's still stiff, I can almost extend it fully. I am fit enough to ride a MotoGP bike at a good level. The Ninja ZX-RR has showed its potential and the Bridgestone tyres have been highly competitive since the beginning of the season. Now it is our turn and Mugello is one of my favourite tracks. The location is magnificent, the atmosphere is one of the best and the layout is great. High-speed, long curves, uphills and downhills, banking corners… I can't anticipate what will happen this weekend but I'll work tirelessly to get my confidence and speed back throughout the practice sessions, ready to put in a good performance for the race."