Not the result he was looking for
Kawasaki's Shinya Nakano was forced to accept a hard fought eighth place in today's Australian Grand Prix, after the onset of rain on lap six forced him to relinquish a five second lead at the front of the race.
A brief rain shower
as the riders lined up on the grid for today's 17-lap race caused the start to be delayed.
The race was eventually started ten minutes behind schedule in dry conditions, but with the black clouds surrounding the circuit still threatening rain.
Nakano got a flying start from second place on the grid, taking the lead into the first turn and immediately pulling away from the chasing pack. Intermittent rain made conditions difficult, but the 28-year-old Kawasaki rider was in a class of his own during the opening laps.
By the time the rain had increased to the point where the white flag was shown to the riders - to indicate they could return to the pits, to change to bikes with a wet set-up - Nakano had pulled out a five second gap on second placed Sete Gibernau.
As the rain continued to fall steadily, the majority of the MotoGP riders returned to the pits at the end of lap eight, for a somewhat chaotic switch to their spare machines, leaving Nakano virtually alone on track, as he continued to push hard in the tricky conditions.
One lap later and Nakano also pitted to change to his second Ninja ZX-RR, but despite rejoining the race in second place, the Kawasaki pilot was quickly demoted to sixth, as he tried to get a feel for the full wet tyres fitted front and rear.
Nakano continued to push hard as the track dried out, using up his wet tyres in the process, with the result that he was unable to counter moves by Nicky Hayden and Loris Capirossi at the end of the race, forcing him to settle for eighth place at the line.
Randy de Puniet was pushing hard to make up places from eleventh position when he came into pits with a large group of riders to switch bikes, rejoining the race in the same position, after narrowly avoiding a collision with Makoto Tamada in the busy Phillip Island pit lane.
The 25-year-old Frenchman quickly settled into a good rhythm, moving up the order to take tenth place, before losing time as a build up of dirt on his visor considerably reduced his visibility.
De Puniet fought hard to hold off Makoto Tamada on the final lap, but lost out on a top ten finish as the Japanese rider out-dragged him to the chequered flag, leaving the Kawasaki pilot to cross the line in eleventh place.
Shinya Nakano: 8th
"Well, I think that's the best start I've ever had in MotoGP! There was some rain from the start, but I could feel that the grip was still there, so I pushed as hard as I could from the off. I couldn't believe it when I saw I had a two second lead at the end of the first lap, which had increased to over three seconds by the end of the next. Then it started raining. I stayed out for an extra lap, but it was difficult to manage the pace out there on my own. I came in on the next lap, switched bikes, and then got swallowed up by the leading group as I tried to get a feel for the grip offered by the full wet tyres. Then it dried out a bit and I used up all the tyres chasing the leaders, which left me with a problem when it started raining again. In the closing stages, although the bike was moving around a lot, I still thought I could overtake Loris, but then when I closed onto his rear wheel it was obvious straight away that it would have been too risky to try and pass. Eighth isn't the result I was looking for today, so that's a little disappointing, but now I must focus on the Japanese Grand Prix next weekend, which is obviously important to me as it's my home race."
Randy de Puniet: 11th
"My start was not so good, but I was already starting to make up positions when the rain started to make the track too slippery to continue on slicks. When I switched to wet tyres my feeling wasn't so good, and I was also struggling to see out of my visor, because the spray from the bikes in front was full of dirt. It's disappointing, because we expected much better this weekend, after being consistently quick on race set-up throughout practice and qualifying. As the track started to dry the rear was spinning up in a lot of places, and this made it difficult to keep my lap times consistent. I thought I could hold off Tamada for a top ten finish, but it wasn't to be. All we can do now is look forward to the next race at Motegi, which is only a week away."
Harald Eckl: Team Principal
"Shinya got a fantastic start, and rode brilliantly to build up such a big lead in difficult conditions. If it had stayed dry then I'm positive we would be celebrating a podium finish now. But, unfortunately, it started raining, and he eventually finished eighth. I'm sorry for him and for Randy, as both riders proved during practice and qualifying that we were strong at this circuit, and that a good result in this race was a real possibility. Having said that, I'm happy that both riders managed to finish the race in the points, in what were very difficult conditions today."
Kawasaki Racing Team