And a hard time for the riders
Each year, towards the end of the season, the MotoGP paddock decamps from it's usual European haunts and embarks on a three-week tour of South East Asia, taking in Grand Prix races in Malaysia, Australia and Japan.
While three races
in quick succession is great for the television audiences worldwide - although watching the races live requires an early wake-up call for European viewers - competing in three races in as many weekends, and so far away from their European bases, places heavy demands on both riders and teams alike.
At each European round the Kawasaki Racing Team have on hand two custom built, fully kitted race transporters in which to carry their inventory of bikes, spares and equipment, and from which they can fully support their two riders, Shinya Nakano and Randy de Puniet, throughout the course of a race weekend. But, when the team head East for the overseas races the transporters must remain at home, and the eight tonnes of equipment needed to complete three MotoGP events must be packed into 30 custom built transport crates and shipped to each race by air.
Each of Kawasaki's four built up Ninja ZX-RR MotoGP machines travels in it's own crate, but these four crates are accompanied by a further nine crates containing the 10,000 individual spare parts required to keep the bikes running for three races in succession.
Four crates are required for the JB Magtan wheel rims used during a Grand Prix weekend, while all the data acquisition equipment and computer systems are contained within their own specially designed crate, which also doubles as a workstation in the pit box at overseas races.
Then there are crates for suspension components, fuel and lubricant stations and even a custom crate for the office equipment used by the team administration personnel at the overseas races.
On average, it takes Kawasaki's pit crew just four hours to empty all 30 crates and set- up a working pit box at each of the three overseas races. Once the race is over, the pit box can be dismantled and the crates repacked and prepared for shipment to the next event in less than three hours.
At least half-a-tonne of consumable items, such as oil, lubricants and cleaning solvents are delivered to each racetrack by the Kawasaki Racing Team's technical partner, Elf, who also deliver to the circuits the 300 litres of race control fuel that the team's Ninja ZX-RR machines will use in a single race weekend.
But getting the equipment to each track is only half the battle. The Kawasaki Racing Team comprises 25 people, all of whom have to be flown to each race, accommodated in a hotel near to each circuit, transported between hotel and racetrack each day, and fed and watered while they work. It's no easy task, and the Kawasaki Racing Team employs one person working full time on just transporting and accommodating the team personnel during the course of the season.
With the team personnel rarely leaving the pit box before ten o'clock each evening, and early starts the rule rather than the exception, the three overseas races are hard on everyone. But what about the riders, who have to compete in three races in succession with barely enough time between each for travel, never mind recovery?
"For sure, the flyaway races are hard on the riders," explains Shinya Nakano. "Normally it takes a couple of days to recover fully from each race, but there just isn't the opportunity to take a couple of days off when you have to race on three consecutive weekends, and you're travelling for at least 12 hours between each event."
"Sure, you get to sit on a plane for eight hours on the day after each race, but as anyone who regularly flies long haul knows, time spent in the air is rarely relaxing. But, while the flyaway schedule is hard, at least it gives us the chance to see a little of different countries and cultures at the same time. Of course, for me, it also provides the one opportunity in the season to race in front of my home crowd."
"This time around I'm looking to perform well at Phillip Island and, hopefully, carry this momentum through to the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi, which is obviously an important race for both myself and Kawasaki,"" concluded Nakano.