Sachsenring : Kawasaki – Day One
The 10th MotoGP weekend of the season got underway today with the first of three free practice sessions at the Sachsenring circuit in Germany.
Kawasaki Racing Team riders, Randy de Puniet and Anthony West, both made valuable inroads
in to finding set ups suitable for the twisty, undulating track, ready for tomorrow's qualifying session.
In the morning's first practice, de Puniet went well but crashed early on, just under the Audi bridge at turn seven: a fast, uphill left hander. However, he was unhurt and returned to the pits to mount his second bike. He soon picked up the pace again and continued to make steady progress in the later afternoon session as well, despite a brief trip through the gravel after overshooting turn one.
And he was not alone: the day saw Barros, Hopkins and Hayden either crashing out or leaving the track for one reason or another as they adapted to the highly technical and tight track on the new, 800cc bikes.
De Puniet completed the day's sessions in 10th place on combined times, with a best lap of 1'23.667, less than a second off leading man, Casey Stoner. Indeed, all of today's fastest 12 riders are within a second of the young Australian's time. Disappointed after an off at the recent Dutch Grand Prix, De Puniet hopes to add to his championship points tally this weekend and his speeds today clearly showed that's a strong possibility.
West finished the sessions in 15th position on combined times, having made a continuous effort throughout both the allocated hours and remaining within the top ten for by far the majority of the time. His best run was in the second session, with a time of 1'24.106, just ahead of current world champion, Nicky Hayden.
Looking for improvement at every round, West, now in to his third MotoGP race weekend on the 800cc Ninja ZX-RR, ideally aims to beat the ninth place he achieved two weeks ago at Assen.
A keen crowd watched the action on track throughout the day, which bodes well for an excellent turn out for the race, especially if the weather holds. And the 3.671km circuit is a fantastic track for spectators with endless twists, turns, uphills and downhills; dark, wooded hills to one side and a frenetic camp site full of race-mad motorcyclists to the other! It promises to be a good weekend…
Randy de Puniet
"The first part of the session was good. I was in the top three and was happy with my settings and tyres: I'm sure I could have kept improving my lap times. However, when we tried a new rear tyre I started to get a lot of problems with chatter, so now we need to check if it's a problem with the suspension settings or the rear tyre itself. In general the bike is not bad at all, we just need to fix the chatter problem and I've no doubt we can do that tomorrow, ready for qualifying."
"We've had a few problems with a bit of chatter in the bike: in some sections I'm really fast and in others I'm losing a lot of time, so we've got to put it all together and find a good set up. Today hasn't gone too badly and we played around with the tyres a bit. I know a lot of places where I can improve so tomorrow should be good. And we'll see what the weather does because if it gets really hot it's going to change things with the tyres. I'm happy with the way things went, overall. The time gap between me and Casey is only 1.3 seconds: lower than it was at Assen or Donington, so we're getting closer… "
"Today, step by step, we've tried to use a harder tyre option and it seems that's working better. We're getting improved stability and traction and, as for tyre life, we aren't worried at the moment because tomorrow's weather is meant to be much hotter, so it really needs to be sorted out then. We also got plenty of information regarding the general set up of the machines and to understand where we need to improve. We tried some suspension adjustments but, by the end, Randy still had some problems that stopped him riding as he'd like, so we'll look in to what we can do for practice tomorrow."