''It was a hard race''
Anthony West realised his personal goal of an eighth position today after a scorching German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring. However, Randy de Puniet's bad luck continued when his bike died shortly before the chequered flag, robbing him of valuable
championship points after he had spent the entire race well within the top ten.
In front of over 100,000 spectators, braving blistering temperatures at the Saxony track, the race was punctuated by numerous crashes and retirements. However, Kawasaki Racing Team rider, West, remained calm amid the searing heat to bring his 800cc Ninja ZX-RR across the line, fulfilling his wish to beat his own previous best placement of ninth, gained at Assen a fortnight ago.
After starting from 12th on the grid, Anthony crossed the line in 13th after lap one, then lost another position to Carlos Checa the next time around. Checa crashed soon afterwards, beginning a catalogue of disasters for several riders, which helped the concerted #13 rider to steadily move up the leaderboard.
However, West's own race wasn't without apprehension. By lap seven, he was on top of Colin Edwards and reigning world champion, Nicky Hayden, and he managed to stick with them until a mistake mid-race at turn five which nearly saw him in the gravel. He held on but was unable to maintain the pace of the two Americans after the incident created a gap and he rode much of the rest of the race to eighth place alone.
The 25-year-old Australian, who celebrates his birthday on Tuesday, now has 20 championship points, despite having ridden in only two MotoGP races prior to the event at the Sachsenring: the British GP at Donington Park, where he came home in 11th place, and the Dutch TT. Today's result shows remarkable talent and maturity for any rider in the premier class, let alone such a relative newcomer, and the team are delighted with the rapid progress of their new signing.
Randy de Puniet's race was also showing signs of great promise. Aiming to improve his starting technique, he got off the line sharply and maintained a good position in to the precarious turn one. Holding his own in the pack, and occupying an impressive sixth position, he soon had former world champion, Valentino Rossi, following closely behind but the 26-year-old Frenchman maintained his composure, holding him off, until the Italian went to overtake him on the sixth lap. Rossi lost the front end and slid off the track but de Puniet managed to avoid getting entangled in the crash and continued.
In a heartbreaking turn of events, and after keeping on top of the accelerated tyre wear inevitable in such heat, de Puniet's bike suffered a mechanical problem and he retired on the start/finish straight just two laps from the end. It was a miserable turn of events for the Ninja rider, whose performances this season have been showing increasing promise, including a top five at Catalunya last month.
Still, after such a hair-raising event, race fans won't have to wait too long for their next fix of MotoGP: the 11th round is just a week away at California's Laguna Seca and Kawasaki will be ready to handle whatever the American track can throw at them.
I'm really happy with this result as I wanted to keep making a step forward at every round and it's worked out this weekend. It was tough, though. A lot of people crashed and grip on the track wasn't too good, because of the heat I think, which meant I couldn't push as hard as I wanted to. I followed Hayden for a while, and he pulled me towards Edwards before he overtook him, but then I nearly crashed. I lost the front end going in to turn five, managed to pick the bike up on my knee and was lucky to stay on. That dropped me back a bit, and I tried to catch Colin, but I needed to conserve the tyres, even though I wanted to go faster. I wasn't sure they'd last the race but they did, so I'm pleased I finished and I'm happy with my position.
Randy de Puniet
I don't know what happened. The engine started to play up in the last two laps I did but I don't know what the problem was. Before that, in the middle of the race, I got a lot of movement in the front tyre, which is why my lap times weren't that good. It was difficult to control the bike but I was just trying to keep my place. Then, about ten laps in, the rear started to slide a lot, on entry, the middle of the bends and on the exit but even then, I still felt it was possible to finish. I had to retire just after I crossed the line, two laps from the end and I'm obviously very disappointed about that.
It was a hard race. Before we came here, we thought perhaps we could do better this weekend than we have but we were wrong. I don't yet know the nature of Randy's technical problem but it's such a big disappointment for him. Also, it looked as if, at some points, Michelin had the advantage over Bridgestone for once today. Anthony did a great job though, with good lap times, finishing eighth so yes, it hasn't been easy here, and we've tried very hard, but I'm feeling happy.