Mugello : Kawasaki - Day 3
The Kawasaki racing team faced disappointment at today's MotoGP round from Mugello, after Olivier Jacque finished just outside the points and his teammate, Randy de Puniet, crashed out on the second lap.
The team were hoping for a continuation
of the rain that has disrupted practice and qualifying all weekend to help their riders, both of whom are still suffering the after-effects of recent crashes, to go the distance. But, although heavy cloud hovered over the Italian circuit, the rain held off and, despite both riders having qualified in the top ten on the grid, the hoped for results failed to materialise.
Jacque, starting from the front of the second row, initially got off to a good start but soon lost ground, which saw him swallowed up as the field stormed towards the first corner. Unfortunately, he never managed to achieve the pace that would have seen him nearer the front-runners but he completed the race distance of 120.635 km, happy with the set up of the bike and the performance and longevity of his Bridgestone tyres.
It was a heroic ride that wasn't entirely comfortable for Jacque, still weakened by an injury to his right forearm after a crash in Shanghai. His efforts were exemplary, given the lack of strength in the arm, and he will continue to work on increasing that strength before the next Grand Prix in Spain.
De Puniet had a bad start from seventh on the grid and didn't have time to get into his stride and progress back through the field before crashing on lap two at the tricky Arrabbiata curve. Fortunately, the impact did not affect his previously injured right shoulder and, although his left knee took a battering, he will be fit to race next weekend.
The time at Mugello has proved a challenging test for Kawasaki's revised Ninja ZX-RR engine, with the increased power reflected in the impressive top speeds achieved by both riders during the weekend. As the season progresses, it is becoming increasingly obvious that Kawasaki's MotoGP bid is certainly in the running when it comes to top end power.
The huge crowd, gathered at the stunning Mugello track in rural Tuscany, provided a magical, party atmosphere in what is, for many riders, their favourite date in the MotoGP calendar. For Kawasaki, the festivities never quite took off but they look forward to next weekend, when all the teams will congregate at the Circuit de Catalunya in northern Spain for the next round of the season, where both Jacque and de Puniet will be hoping to pick up more championship points.
Olivier Jacque : "I finished the race, which was our priority, and I was surprised to be able to keep the rhythm, but now I am really exhausted. I made a good start, but when I shifted to second and third gear many riders overtook me. Maybe I used the first one for too long, but the result was that I dropped from fourth to twelfth position on the first lap. Finally, the race was in dry conditions and this track is really demanding as well, so after seven laps I started to lose the strength in the arm. I couldn't be precise and I didn't want to take any risks and, instead, save energy for the rest of the race. I was sweating a lot for the last laps. I tried to overtake Guintoli and Tamada. Unfortunately, they were stronger than I was on the brakes at the end of the straight and I couldn't take advantage of our engine. This is the first step and I am sure that Barcelona is going to be better."
Randy de Puniet : "This weekend has been far from the best, but the race was the definite low point. Firstly, I got a bad start and lost seven positions in one go - I think I had the same problem as Olivier, but we will need to check this. Anyway, I was trying to recover places as quickly as possible, before the leading group had a chance to get away. I overtook Nakano and Olivier and I was lining up Hofmann when I lost the front in the Arrabbiata. I went in wide, got off the racing line mid-corner and then lost the front when I hit the bumps on the outside line. Luckily I didn't do any additional damage to my injured shoulder, but I do have some pain in my left knee, but this shouldn't be a problem for Catalunya next week. I can only apologise to everyone in the team, and I leave here determined to make amends in Barcelona in seven days time."
Michael Bartholemy - Kawasaki Competition Manager : "We knew ahead of this weekend that both riders were not fully fit, and that this would make things difficult for both of them around a physically demanding circuit like Mugello. However, we weren't expecting things to be quite as difficult as they proved today! Randy lost places at the start and then crashed while trying to get back on terms with the leading group. He needs to look at how to improve his race start, because if he can arrive at the first corner in the same position in which he started the race, then he won't have to push so hard and take so many risks on the opening lap. He also needs to start finishing races. The old saying 'to finish first, first you must finish' may be something of a cliché, but that doesn't make it any less true. I am happy for Olivier as he managed to finish on his return to racing after a two-race lay-off. Obviously he is still not fully fit, but I'm confident he will improve further in Barcelona, where I hope Randy will also be able to secure a good result."
Kawasaki Racing Team