Donington : Kawasaki – Day One
The Nickel and Dime British Grand Prix got off to a particularly soggy start today as continuous rain poured down on the Midlands circuit.
However, the day went well for the Kawasaki team with both Randy de Puniet and new teammate,
Anthony West, finishing the timed sessions well within the top ten.
Randy claimed fourth place on the leaderboard on combined times with a fastest lap of 1'44.302 in the first session of the day. This put him just 0.553 seconds behind current championship leader and today's pacesetter, Casey Stoner. The 26-year-old Frenchman sat out half of the second session as the morning's activities had taken their toll on his injured knee but, once back out on track, he put in another 16 productive laps. A brief foray through the gravel at Redgate failed to topple him over, in conditions that saw the likes of Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa either crashing or veering off onto the grass.
Hoping to build on his positive performance at the last race in Catalunya, where he gained fifth place, de Puniet's looking strong and confident: a fact reflected in his notable lap times despite the conditions.
New team rider, Anthony West, put in a similarly robust performance in his first MotoGP practice session on the 800cc Ninja ZX-RR. Despite having never ridden in the company of these riders at this level, he more than held his own, finishing seventh fastest on combined times and spending much of the second practice dicing with Hopkins and Stoner for first place. Fast and consistent, the 25-year-old Australian put in his fastest lap of the day,1'44.498, right at the end of the last session and the team were impressed, not only with his riding but with the expertise with which he managed to communicate his needs to his technicians. It's early days but things are gelling nicely.
Both riders appeared happy with the day's work, the bikes and the Bridgestone tyres they were running, resulting in a positive mood in the Kawasaki camp.
A smattering of fans braved the horrendous conditions as, in legendary English style, the clouds opened over Donington and then refused to close again. However, with more bad weather forecast for the weekend, a wet practice could well prove particularly fruitful for the team, enabling them to fine tune a good wet set up.
Randy de Puniet
“The conditions were bad and vision wasn't great but I'm happy about the bike: I had a good feeling and I'm confident. We've been working on the tyres and the mapping, which are the most important things here. My knee's been painful but after this weekend there's a break, so I hope it will be completely better for the Sachsenring.
Tomorrow, we will work on more of the same, especially tyre choice, depending on the weather.”
“We had a few problems with the rear this morning but now it's a lot better. And it's really odd but the bike's becoming more comfortable even though the back tyre's done both sessions, so with a new tyre I'm sure we could go even quicker and get more traction. At the moment, I'm really happy. I'm excited to be here and today was a good day. I was worried about the rain this morning but it's turned out well and I like working with this team: they seem to understand what I want. We've been trying things out and playing around, seeing what I like and what I don't like. A lot of testing in a short time.”
“Both riders did a good job to set up the machine today for a wet race but we must wait and see what happens tomorrow as we haven't got a dry set up. We've adjusted the throttle to be more precise and gentle and sorted out the engine mapping and tyres. We've been very impressed with Anthony on his first time out. He was fast and really consistent and when he came in, he made good progress improving the set up. As for Randy, we know he mustn't stress his knee too much but we'll see how he'll cope. It's all good. We're really happy.”