As Ducati and Suzuki riders struggle
Bridgestone-shod Kawasaki rider Shinya Nakano put in a sensational qualifying lap late in this afternoon's grid-determining session to take second place for tomorrow's Australian GP at Phillip Island.
The result marks Nakano's
fourth front row start of the season after a third place grid slot at the season opener in Jerez and second places in Le Mans and Assen, the latter of which he followed up with a second-placed podium finish.
Nakano's team-mate Randy de Puniet continues to enjoy a competitive Australian GP weekend. He will start the 27-lap race from ninth on the grid and is aiming to secure his best finish of the season.
Ducati riders Sete Gibernau and Loris Capirossi will line up 12th and 13th tomorrow afternoon but both have shown strong pace in race trim and have been among the fastest on their Bridgestone race tyres throughout this weekend.
Suzuki's John Hopkins and Chris Vermeulen will also be looking to make headway in Sunday's GP after qualifying in 15th and 16th.
Shinji Aoki – Bridgestone Motorsport - Assistant Manager Motorcycle Race Tire Development
“Firstly, we take great pleasure from seeing the Kawasaki team take second place on the grid following an impressive lap from Shinya Nakano in difficult conditions this afternoon. It is quite evident that our qualifying tyres lacked the necessary performance around this tough track, which hampered the qualifying efforts of each of our three teams today.
We do not yet know the precise details of why our tyres were not as competitive but upon initial inspection, it would seem that we were unable to find the correct balance between qualifying tyre grip and life, which in turn prevented riders from maintaining the tyre grip over the entire qualifying lap.
The Kawasaki team and Shinya found a good solution to this issue during the session to prolong the tyres' competitiveness over the full lap by backing off in the early stages of the lap to conserve the performance for the crucial final sector and last corner. Phillip Island is a notoriously tricky and technical track, placing a particular stress on the left-hand side of the tyre and, although our qualifying performance was disappointing, we have demonstrated that our race tyres are strong, durable and competitive.
Low grid positions will make for a tough race for Suzuki and Ducati but there is still cause for optimism ahead of tomorrow's race with some strong free practice performances. With Shinya and Randy 2nd and 9th, Kawasaki's excellent performance in spite of this afternoon's difficulties will well place them to be strong challengers in the race. In the meantime, we will continue to look into today's situation and work with our teams to make gains tomorrow afternoon.”