A delighted Kawasaki Racing Team are today celebrating the first time this season both their riders have come home with championship points, after the British Grand Prix at Donington Park.
As a result of steady rain all morning, the 30-lap race was run
in the wet: not regarded as an entirely bad thing in the Kawasaki garage. But the track started to dry out and grip became unpredictable on the notoriously unforgiving circuit, making for a hugely exciting eighth round of the season.
Randy de Puniet managed a well-deserved sixth place on his 800cc Ninja ZX-RR having started on the third row of the grid. In front of nearly 85,000 spectators who braved dismal conditions at the Leicestershire circuit, the 26-year-old Frenchman lost a couple of places on the first lap but soon made his way back up through the pack. A crash in this morning's warm up session had failed to dent his confidence and, towards the end of the race, he held off rival, Alex Barros, whilst simultaneously giving the man in front, John Hopkins, something to worry about.
Randy's sixth spot earns him 10 points, taking his total so far this season to 40. Maintaining his 13th position in the championship overall, he's just one point behind 2006 world champion, Nicky Hayden.
In his first ever MotoGP race, team newcomer Anthony West put in a staggering early performance, firing up from 17th on the grid to ninth by the end of lap one. When he overtook Valentino Rossi on the fourth lap, the seven times world champion got him straight back but West passed him again, rising to a remarkable fifth place. There was no sign of a let up in his extraordinary progress until a lack of grip saw the 25-year-old Australian in the gravel at Coppice on lap seven.
He quickly remounted the bike and rejoined the track in 15th position.
During the rest of the race, West managed to make up ground, passing the likes of Elias and Nakano, eventually crossing the line in 11th place. He scored five points on his first outing and is, already, officially 18th out of 22 riders in the championship.
Earlier in the day, the premier class rookie had topped the timesheets after a wet warm up, beating none other than current world championship leader, Casey Stoner, and today's pole position man, Colin Edwards: the men who claimed first and second places in the race itself.
Next weekend sees yet another round of the MotoGP world championship, at Assen in the Netherlands: the end of an exhausting run of four races in five weekends for the teams. Another hugely popular round, the Kawasaki team will be spurred on to improve by the recent upsurge in their prospects, and by the podium finish they achieved last year at the Dutch circuit. In the meantime, it's smiles all round at Randy and Anthony's hugely promising achievements in the UK.
Randy de Puniet
“That was a hard race and I was very happy to see the flag! The first few laps felt a bit slow but I found it difficult to improve as I didn't want to make a mistake. Tyres were a problem at the end, with the track becoming dry, and it was difficult to control the machine. Grip wasn't good but it was the same for everybody and, overall, the bike worked well in the difficult conditions. I finished in sixth position and, for me, it was my best race because it was so, so hard, so I'm very happy. It's great for me and the team to continue to do well after the result in Barcelona.”
“I felt really strong in the wet and it didn't feel like I was pushing too hard. Nicky Hayden crashed right in front of me in the same place a few laps before and there was no grip there. I'd struggled with it all weekend. But the rear came round so quickly and I don't really know what happened. After that, when the track started drying out, I found it hard to get any traction and couldn't lay the power down. Later, it started to feel better but by then it was too late to make a move back on Melandri. I'm disappointed I crashed because I wanted to get a good result for these guys but I'm happy I finished and got some points.”
"I am happy with our performance today, and throughout the whole weekend. Randy rode a sensible race to secure his second successive top ten finish in difficult conditions, while Anthony showed just how quickly he's adapted to our Ninja ZX-RR with an impressive performance early on in the race. He's completed only three full days on the bike, and yet he was running in fifth place before a mistake at Coppice saw him run off the track. But, he fought back and was unlucky to miss out on a top ten finish as conditions improved towards the end. This is the first race in which both bikes have finished in the points this season, so Randy and Anthony can congratulate themselves on a job well done. I think we've shown that the Ninja ZX-RR is capable of finishing high up the order regardless of the conditions and I hope we can continue this trend for the remainder of the season."