“Plenty of reasons to face the race with confidence”
After an exciting round at the UK's Donington Park, the Kawasaki Racing Team is heading to Assen in optimistic mood.
With Randy de Puniet taking sixth position after a strong, consistent ride, and newcomer Anthony
West scoring valuable points in what was his debut MotoGP race, things are looking good for Kawasaki's factory MotoGP squad this weekend.
They will be hoping to replicate the success they had last year when erstwhile team member, Shinya Nakano, took his Kawasaki over the line in second place at the famous Dutch circuit, securing a fantastic podium spot for the squad.
De Puniet has been putting in increasingly solid and steady rides of late, making good progress on the Bridgestone-shod, 800cc Ninja ZX-RR. The Assen race represents the half way stage of the season and he's already scored more championship points than he achieved in 2006. He'll be aiming to add to those this Saturday.
"We haven't digested Donington yet but here we are, already in the Netherlands for the Dutch TT! Since Barcelona, we've been going well and I hope to continue this trend at Assen. Until they made all the changes, it was my favourite circuit of the whole championship but, even though I still like it, it has lost most of its magic. The first section used to be quite fun but now it's just too slow. Last year, the Ninja worked quite well and it seemed to be a favourable track for Kawasaki, as Shinya's podium proved. I was just unlucky: I had a problem with the front tyre during the warm up lap and had to start the race from the pits. I'm still not fully recovered from my shoulder and knee injuries but they're getting better every day. We've already shown we can finish in the top eight and that's the target this weekend, too”, said the Frenchman.
For West, meanwhile, the British MotoGP brought with it the chance to ride for a factory team in the premier class for the first time and he did well to secure an 11th position finish, despite coming off early in the race. A steep learning curve looms large over the 25-year-old Australian but he's taking it all in his stride. With five previous top ten finishes at Assen in the 250cc world championship, including a win there in 2003, Anthony's looking forward to familiarising himself further with the new bike at what is one of his favourite tracks.
"I like Assen and have good memories of it as I won my first GP race there in 2003, riding a 250cc”, said West. “It used to be really fast and flowing but the first part was changed and lost some of its appeal. The last part, the nicest bit, remains the same though. There are some corners you can go in to really hard and I'm really looking forward to riding the Ninja ZX-RR round there. I'd like to go and be fast but there's still so much to learn and I need more time. The aim is just to do the same good job we did at Donington: improving session after session, one step at a time. I'm still getting used to the whole thing, and it's going to take a while yet, but I'm having a lot of fun at the moment and it's all good!"
The 4.555km/2.84 mile Circuit Van Drenthe is a favourite of riders and spectators alike, drawing race fans from all over Europe. With the A-Style Dutch TT Assen traditionally being run on a Saturday, practice sessions will begin on Thursday with qualifying on Friday afternoon.
"The result achieved at Donington meant both our riders finishing within the points and, for the next race at Assen, we just want to continue the same way. The weather forecast is still uncertain but we're feeling confident, as we showed we're able to find a good set up either for wet or dry conditions, and we will try to use our experiences at Donington to keep improving it. We're now in a busy period, having had four races in five weeks, which has meant we've had no time to test but we've managed to do a lot of positive work with the set up. Last year we got a very good result with Shinya but until Thursday, we won't now how well-suited to Assen the 800cc Ninja ZX-RR and the Bridgestone tyres are. However, we have plenty of reasons to face the race with confidence”, commented Kawasaki technical manager Naoya Kaneko.