Sepang : Kawasaki - Day 1
Kawasaki's Shinya Nakano ended today's free practice tenth fastest overall, but the 28- year-old Japanese rider is confident that the latest engine revision on his Ninja ZX-RR MotoGP machine will lead to a significant improvement in his lap times
ahead of tomorrow's all-important qualifying session.
Nakano started this morning's hour-long free practice aboard a Ninja ZX-RR fitted with the older specification engine, but quickly switched to the latest version of Kawasaki's MotoGP bike, on which he was immediately able to match his previous best lap time.
Nakano's initial comments were that the latest specification 990cc motor, which also features a revised exhaust system, offered a significant improvement in top speed along Sepang's trademark twin straights, but that throttle response - especially out of slower turns - still required some refinement.
The Japanese rider, together with his crew and engineers from Kawasaki in Japan, continued to make improvements to the ignition mapping and set-up of the engine throughout this afternoon's free practice, but the increasingly hot conditions conspired against Nakano, as he tried to improve his lap time towards the end of the hour-long session.
Nakano remains confident that the latest specification Ninja ZX-RR engine will prove an advantage at the Sepang circuit, once he and Kawasaki's technical staff have had more chance to refine the set-up during tomorrow's two hours of track time.
"Our revised engine is working well here, and there is a definite improvement in top speed on Sepang's two long straights.
However, we've only been running this engine for two hours today, so there is still some set-up work to be done tomorrow," said Dani Pedrosa. "At the moment we're about 70% there with the set-up - it's still a little bit too aggressive out of the turns - but I'm confident that, with more track time tomorrow, we can improve things in this area. We also worked today on refining the chassis balance, which is important at this circuit, as well as trying a selection of tyres from Bridgestone. Conditions this afternoon were very difficult physically, because the temperature has increased considerably during the course of the day, but I was still a little disappointed not to improve my lap time towards the end of the session. Having said that, I'm happy overall with what we've achieved today, and I'm confident that we will make further improvements tomorrow."
Kawasaki's MotoGP rookie, Randy de Puniet, finished 13th fastest overall, after struggling through both of today's free practice sessions with front brake problems on his Ninja ZX-RR.
With an inconsistent feeling from the front brake, the 25-year-old Frenchman was unable to string together the consistent laps required to collect the data necessary to improve the overall set-up of his Ninja ZX-RR.
Although disappointed to have effectively lost a whole day of track time, de Puniet is confident that his crew can come up with a solution to the brake problems overnight, to give him at least two track sessions tomorrow during which to refine his set-up and identify a suitable race tyre for Sunday's 21-lap Malaysian Grand Prix.
"Today was not the start to the weekend I was hoping for. It's strange, because the bike felt good during the early part of this morning's free practice session, but then as the pace increased we started to suffer with front brake problems," said Randy de Puniet. "The braking force is just not consistent from lap to lap and corner to corner, which doesn't inspire confidence at a fast track like Sepang, and also makes it difficult to work on the set-up of the bike, because it's impossible to lap consistently. We've made changes to try and eliminate the problem, but without success so far. We need to sit down tonight and go through the data from today, to see if we can come up with a solution. But, while I'm confident my crew can fix the problem, it doesn't change the fact that we've effectively lost one whole day of track time, and I think this will be difficult to make up tomorrow."
Naoya Kaneko, Technical Manager, commented: "For Shinya it was a very positive start to the day, as his lap times on the revised engine were similar to those on the older specification motor. With any major revision to the engine there is extensive set-up work to be done, so I'm confident that we'll be able to make further improvements with more track time tomorrow, which should allow Shinya to close the gap to the top of the timesheet ahead of qualifying. With Randy we need to identify the problem that's causing his lack of feeling on the brakes. We made many changes to the brake set-up on both his bikes today, but the problem has persisted and we now need to look a little more deeply into the causes using the data collected from his bikes today. Until we've fixed this problem, it will be difficult for Randy to progress with setting up his bike for this track."