Laguna Seca : Kawasaki – Day Two
Anthony West's Ninja ZX-RR will be the best placed Kawasaki on the grid for tomorrow's U.S. Grand Prix, after the 26-year-old Australian qualified 12th fastest during this afternoon's timed session at Laguna Seca.
West's regular Kawasaki
team mate, Randy de Puniet, will start from one row further back on the grid after qualifying his Ninja ZX-RR in 13th place. And, after winning this afternoon's AMA Supersport race in impressive style, Kawasaki wild card rider, Roger Lee Hayden, will start his debut MotoGP race tomorrow from 16th position on the grid.
During this morning's free practice session it was Hayden who lead the Kawasaki trio home, finishing 11th fastest overall, with de Puniet and West filling the next two places on the timesheet.
Hayden may well have continued his form from the morning free practice session to end the day as the top Kawasaki rider, but the American was baulked during qualifying on his last flying lap, by an on track dispute involving Honda's Carlos Checa and Suzuki's John Hopkins.
For all three Kawasaki riders, a deterioration in the track conditions ahead of this afternoon's timed session meant that they all struggled to improve their times after switching to super-sticky qualifying rubber.
Despite the difficult conditions, West did a great job of perfecting his lines around a circuit he has never raced at before, eventually finishing just 0.799s down on polesitter, Casey Stoner. De Puniet made a late recovery after a difficult session, clocking his fastest time on his penultimate lap, a minuscule 0.022 seconds behind his Australian team mate, West. The 26-year-old Frenchman has already improved on his 15th place qualifying position of last year and is confident he can beat his 2006 race placement of 12th in tomorrow's gruelling 32-lapper.
The mountainous, arid landscape of Laguna provides ample entertainment to fans and a not insignificant challenge to riders! With some harsh turns and huge inclines, there's plenty to keep the premier class racers busy and spectators on the edges of their seats. After warm up tomorrow morning, Kawasaki anticipates a spectacular event with plenty of support for their team evident amongst the fans at the track.
“Being the fastest Kawasaki is the good thing about today but I just didn't feel right in that session. The wind was picking up, and the there was a lot of dust blowing across the track, which seemed to make it harder to do better times. The qualifying tyres weren't really helping me but I was able to push a little bit harder on the last lap and do a decent time, although I'm not really 100% happy with it. Still, at least I haven't gone backwards, so I feel quite positive about the race.”
Randy de Puniet
“It's been a difficult day and this is my worst qualifying position all year. I think we can improve some elements of the bike ready for tomorrow and I hope that, if we do change one or two things just a little, then I can do ok in the race. I didn't feel much improvement with the qualifying tyres and I think this has been the same for all of us today.”
Roger Lee Hayden
“It went pretty well. The beginning of the session was definitely a lot better: I had a good rhythm, put in some strong laps and felt really positive. On the first qualifier, I made a mistake, hit neutral and ran pretty wide. On the second, I just didn't give it enough gas, then came up against a couple of riders arguing with each other about something, which held me up. Overall, it's been an OK day and, although I didn't go any faster on the qualifiers, I think I can go well in the race tomorrow.”