“It is too early to draw results”
Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet led the way on Bridgestone tyres after the first day of free practice for this weekend's Australian GP on Phillip Island.
His late lap of 1m29.745s, achieved using a set of Bridgestone qualifiers, outclassed
the rest of the field by 0.6s, but it is the Frenchman's pace in race trim that leaves Bridgestone optimistic for the remainder of the weekend.
De Puniet's Japanese colleague Shinya Nakano proved that Kawasaki are contenders in Australia by posting the fifth quickest time of the day (1m30.716s) on race tyres, just one-tenth shy of his team-mate's best “race“ lap (1m30.696s).
Bridgestone's great start to the weekend was supported by the achievements of Loris Capirossi and Sete Gibernau, who wound up second and fourth quickest (1m30.310s and 1m30.693s respectively) in today's combined practice standings for the Ducati Corse team.
Ducati, who finished third at this event with Carlos Checa in 2005, focussed on race preparations today in an effort to continue their recent fine form following victory in Brno and a close second place in Malaysia. Both riders tried a new profile rear which allows for an increased contact patch between tyre and asphalt, aiding grip and traction.
The Kawasaki and Ducati riders were the only four to lap under 1m31s in both of today's two free practice sessions. Suzuki, meanwhile, struggled on the opening day with John Hopkins and Chris Vermeulen in 12th and 14th (1m31.496s and 1m31.846s respectively).
Shinji Aoki – Bridgestone Motorsport - Assistant Manager Motorcycle Race Tire Development
“It would appear from initial results that we have put into good practice what we learned from our success at the Phillip Island circuit last season and the information we collected at pre-season testing here back in February. From those experiences, we have adjusted the compounds accordingly for this track to cope with the stresses placed on the tyres, especially on the left-hand side.
The selection of tyres that we evaluated with each of our teams today seems to be consistently competitive, but it is too early to draw results. It is only Friday and we have seen how quickly things can alter over the course of a weekend. With Kawasaki, we adopted a similar strategy to Malaysia, which allowed Randy to try one specification of our qualifying tyres at the end of the session. This proved a useful decision, as we can see that a slightly different specification will work better over the complete lap in tomorrow's all-important qualifying session. Nevertheless, it is important not to look just at Randy's qualifying simulation, as both he and Shinya have shown an impressive pace on their Bridgestone race tyres. Ducati has demonstrated another strong performance in free practice, which has all the signs of a competitive weekend for both Loris and Sete. In the second session, both riders tried a new profile rear tyre with a greater contact patch with the asphalt to enhance grip and traction. Both riders are pleased with this tyre and were able to lap in the low 1m30s at the end of the session. Suzuki has not had an easy day, but they are all working hard to improve the set-up of their bikes and we, too, are collaborating to equip their bike with the most suitable tyres for their package.”