“A pretty satisfying day”
Randy de Puniet and Anthony West will start tomorrow's MotoGP race from fourth and tenth on the grid respectively after today's qualifying practice at the Misano World Circuit.
After a spectacular downpour yesterday, which caused extensive
flooding at the track, two vital practice sessions were cancelled. Consequently, this morning's practice was extended to two hours, enabling the riders to learn the track, which hasn't seen premier class motorcycle racing since 1993, and teams to perfect race set up.
Both Kawasaki pilots put in blistering performances, with West finishing third fastest, behind Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi, and team mate, de Puniet, coming home seventh after they put a new specification, 800cc engine through its paces in their Ninja ZX-RRs.
This afternoon's qualifying was held in superb, sunny conditions with an air temperature of 23°C and track temperature of 42°C. Frenchman, de Puniet, was on spectacular form, sitting on provisional pole for roughly half the allocated hour as he pushed his Ninja ever faster, competing with Stoner, Rossi and Nicky Hayden for the lead. His second row start in tomorrow's race will give him a strong advantage as the speeds at the 4.180km circuit rise and his bike and Bridgestone tyres seem more than able to cope with its complex twisty sections, as well as its hair-raising straights.
Ahead of John Hopkins and Dani Pedrosa, de Puniet's time was only 0.588 seconds off Stoner's pole and, with the grid's top nine riders separated by under a second, it looks as if tomorrow's 28 lap race is going to be a good one.
Meanwhile, West also put in a strong effort aboard his ZX-RR, having likewise found an effective race set up in the morning. He proved the extra practice on qualifying tyres he had after the Brno round had been fruitful as he continued to explore the limits of the sticky rubber and found himself pushing harder than he's done previously. His top ten starting position, just 0.171 seconds off Colin Edwards and a mere 1.021 seconds off pole, means he'll commence tomorrow's race with more confidence and that, coupled with his usual fire to succeed, should mean we see the 26-year-old Australian at his best.
Certainly, after winning a World Supersport round here earlier this year, he'll be aiming to be in the running for a great result.
Randy de Puniet
"Fourth is not so bad but I think I could have been on the front row, all things considered. On the last lap, I made a small mistake in turn three, and lost some tenths, and that's why I'm on the second row. However, in practice I was going very fast on race tyres so I feel like we've got an exceptional set up for tomorrow. The bike and the Bridgestones are working brilliantly and I think we're in with a strong chance of doing well."
"I didn't manage to go as fast as I'd have liked, and it's not as good as the third position this morning, but I feel there's definitely some improvement after Brno. This morning, everything went smoothly, no problems, but this afternoon I didn't manage quite the same times with the race tyres. I think maybe the rise in temperature made them work differently. Things were a lot better with the qualifying tyres this time round though, and the bike ran a lot smoother, but I still wasn't as quick as I'd like. No worries for the race though: I think we should be okay. I reckon I'll be able to fight far better, I usually do in the race itself, so I think I can improve on tenth."
"It's been a pretty satisfying day. It's never easy when we haven't got long on the track and we need to find the best set up and best tyres in such a short space of time. This is especially true this weekend, as this is our first visit to Misano. But all the crew have been working really hard and I'm very pleased with their teamwork and with what Randy did this afternoon. We need to finalise some adjustments on the bike but I think it's all looking pretty good. Very strong."