“We're making good progress”
Kawasaki's John Hopkins and Anthony West were disappointed to finish today's free practice at Jerez in 14th and 17th place respectively, after encountering rear traction problems during the two hour-long sessions.
Having missed out on
the opportunity for extensive tyre testing during the IRTA test at Jerez, due to the injury he sustained in Phillip Island, Hopkins initially found himself at a disadvantage compared to his factory rivals, all of whom had identified suitable race tyres during their last visit to the 4.423km Circuito de Jerez back in February.
Undeterred, the Anglo-American worked his way through the front and rear tyre combinations available to him, as well as working with his crew to refine the set-up of his Ninja ZX-RR to suit specifically the tyre options selected for this race.
Towards the end of this afternoon's session Hopkins was set to post his fastest lap, and move back into the top ten on the timesheet, until a mistake at the end of the back straight saw him crash without injury. Despite the crash, the 24-year-old Kawasaki pilot is confident that he has a clear direction for tomorrow's practice and qualifying sessions, in which he's determined to improve his grid position for Sunday's 27-lap Spanish Grand Prix.
"The focus today has been on improving the rear grip and we've tried many different tyre combinations. I did have a small crash at the end of the back straight when I started to push; I braked a bit too hard and lost the front but thankfully it hasn't aggravated my injury.
Unfortunately we've found that the tyre that is working the best for us is one we've allocated the least of. This is due to us not being able to put many laps in during the test here because of my injury”, commented Hopkins. “This is a track I've always enjoyed throughout my Grand Prix career so I'd like to get the Kawasaki working well here; we're making good progress despite starting out with a bit of a disadvantage. Tomorrow we have to continue with working on the rear traction, although we don't have the option to run with our preferred tyre all day, as we need to save some of our allocation for the race."
Team mate, West, continued working to eliminate the issues he's suffered throughout testing and the first race in Qatar, where a lack of stability under braking and rear traction on corner exit is hampering his progress.
The 26-year-old Australian remains focussed and determined that more is to come, as he aims to put the opening round of the season behind him, by working tirelessly with his crew to find a solution to his machine handling problems ahead of the second race of the 2008 season on Sunday.
"Although I've come here with a relatively fresh look on things, we're still suffering with the same difficulties we've had during testing. The rear of the bike just isn't sticking well enough, which means we're not getting the drive out of the corners. Today we used a different clutch to see if that would improve the situation but it hasn't worked and we've tried many things, including altering my body position on the bike to improve this. We've also come across corner entry problems here and the bike feels quite nervous when braking”, he explained. “I am determined to find a solution for these problems, as with a bit more grip we have the potential to go much faster."