Mugello : Kawasaki - Day 1
Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet and Olivier Jacque completed today's two free practice sessions, on combined times, in 15th and 18th positions respectively, as the Italian MotoGP weekend kicked off at Tuscany's Mugello circuit.
A dry morning
practice proved physically demanding on both Frenchmen. Randy crashed at Le Mans two weeks ago and Olivier at Shanghai in early May and both are still suffering the after effects: a predicament clearly reflected in their lap times.
De Puniet continues to experience discomfort in his right shoulder, making riding his 800cc Ninja ZX-RR around this fast track particularly difficult. However, after a torrential downpour, the afternoon session was run in full wet conditions. This proved to be a blessing of sorts: riding in the wet lessening the physical demands on the upper body, and both riders were able to push themselves and their bikes without putting undue pressure on their injuries.
Encouragingly, Randy completed a tough 23 laps in the morning session but still managed an impressive 12 in the afternoon. Many of the racers gathered for the Grand Premio d'Italia Alice failed to notch up even ten laps in the appalling conditions of the later practice.
Jacque, meanwhile, still bears the painful scars of his crash in China and, like his teammate, found the morning session to be particularly demanding. His combined practice times fail to illustrate, however, his achievements in the afternoon, when he put in 11 laps of the circuit and finished within the top ten fastest riders.
The team continue to work closely with Bridgestone, aiming to maximise improvements to the Ninja's performance throughout the season. So far, both riders have expressed great satisfaction with the tyre manufacturer and, partnered with increasingly favourable set ups on the bikes and continued development of the their 800cc engines, look forward to progressively improving performance throughout the year.
As for this weekend at Mugello, the weather forecast predicts further unsettled weather. For now, at least, it seems wetter is better for the Kawasaki men, neither of whom is on top physical form quite yet. But the team look forward to the third practice session tomorrow morning and perfecting the bikes, ready for qualifying practice in the afternoon.
Randy de Puniet : "Due to my shoulder injury, this morning's session was hard, especially when changing direction and entering right hand corners. Because of that my lap times weren't as good as I'd have liked and I couldn't properly evaluate the improvements we've made to the Ninja ZX-RR. However, as I did more laps and my body warmed up, I felt better, making me feel more confident for the rest of the weekend. It rained like hell before the afternoon session but that gave us the opportunity to try the new engine in wet conditions and the first impression has been positive. It needs some adjustments, though, as it's still quite aggressive. Because of that, I couldn't get a good lap time in but I'm optimistic for tomorrow as we know the way we need to go."
Olivier Jacque : "It was great to be back on the bike, although this morning was hard. After a few laps, I lost strength in my arm and tried to compensate for it with the shoulder. I lost precision in changing direction, and probably overloaded it, so I had to stop in the box a couple of times to get some rest. I'm not worried about that, though, as I know the strength will soon come back. Physically, the afternoon session was easier for me, as riding in the rain is less demanding, although the amount of water on the track was unbelievable and it was really difficult to control the bike. Things got better as the rain decreased, and I improved my lap times, but I wasn't totally confident as I didn't have much rear traction. We'll need to improve that tomorrow if we're to be ready for a wet race."
Naoya Kaneko - Technical Manager : "We expected the riders not to be in the best physical condition, and we already knew it was going to rain, so we haven't been surprised by today's results. We collected some important information in this morning's session for dry conditions and we know we have to improve the balance of the bike, rear feeling in particular, to enhance the Ninja ZX-RR's turning. The new engine specification looks like it's working well, with a marked improvement in acceleration. However, we need to adjust it for rain conditions. Apparently, the weather will be the same tomorrow so this is what we will work on, as well as finding the best set up with the chassis."
Kawasaki Racing Team