Motegi : Kawasaki - Day 2
Kawasaki's Shinya Nakano missed out on a front row start in his home Grand Prix by the narrowest of margins today at Motegi, after finishing fourth fastest in what must rank as one of the most unpredictable and exciting qualifying sessions of the
MotoGP season so far.
Nakano's Kawasaki teammate, Randy de Puniet, will start from eighth place and the third row of the grid, after running top three on the timesheet for much of this afternoon's qualifying session.
With rain threatening ahead of this afternoon's timed session, Nakano, like many of his factory rivals, opted to run a qualifying tyre right at the start, claiming pole position with his first flying lap.
The Kawasaki pilot was demoted from the top spot by Loris Capirossi just fifteen minutes later, but the Italian only managed to hold on to pole position for thirty seconds, before he was pushed back to second place by a hard charging Randy de Puniet.
At the halfway point Nakano put in a second flying lap on a Bridgestone qualifier, to move up to take second place behind his teammate, giving Kawasaki their first ever one- two at the top of the qualifying timesheet.
Capirossi bounced back with just ten minutes to go, shattering the previous pole position record to reclaim his place at the front of the grid, just ahead of the Kawasaki pairing.
Capirossi's lap was good enough to secure him pole position, but a flurry of fast laps in the last minute of the session saw both Kawasaki pilots pushed from the front two rows of the grid and, while Nakano was able to retake fourth place with his final flying lap, de Puniet was unable to improve his previous best time on his last qualifying tyre, and was forced to settle for eighth place at the chequered flag.
A mechanical problem with his number one bike forced Kawasaki's wild card rider, Naoki Matsudo, to switch to his spare Ninja ZX-RR for the second half of this afternoon's qualifying session.
The 33-year-old Japanese rider was unable to improve upon his previous best lap time aboard his number two machine, but finished the session a creditable sixteenth fastest overall.
Matsudo will start his first Grand Prix for Kawasaki from the head of the sixth row of the grid, in front of MotoGP regulars, Carlos Checa and Makoto Tamada. Shinya Nakano
"I think this afternoon's session must have been exciting for the spectators, because it was certainly exciting for me! We weren't sure of the weather at the beginning of the session, so we put in a qualifier straight away, and with this I managed to take pole early on. At the end we were throwing qualifiers into the bike, and I was riding as hard as I could to try and get myself back on the front row. This was good fun, but, unfortunately, I couldn't quite do enough and I just missed out on a top three spot. Starting from the second row is not such a big disadvantage here at Motegi, but it's critical that I get a good start tomorrow if I am to stay with the leading group. If conditions change for tomorrow, then we might make some small revisions to set-up during morning warm-up, but my lap times have been both fast and consistent in race trim, so I'm confident we'll go to the line with a competitive package tomorrow whatever the conditions." Randy de Puniet
"Yesterday was a bit difficult, but today has been much better. The changes we made to the bike overnight meant I was fast from the off on race tyres this morning, and we were able to improve again in race trim this afternoon. Because the weather looked unsettled this afternoon, we opted to run a qualifier very early on, and with this I was able to take pole position. As everyone else switched to qualifying tyres I slipped back on the provisional grid, but I really thought it was possible to improve my position with my final flying lap on a qualifier. I don't know why, but the last lap didn't come together as I was expecting, leaving me on the third row of the grid. But, my times have been good in race trim, and I'm confident it's possible to put in a strong performance in tomorrow's race, despite my starting position." Naoki Matsudo
"We had a mechanical problem with my number one bike very early on in this afternoon's session, so I completed most of qualifying aboard my second bike, on which I was unable to improve on my previous best lap time. Tomorrow we'll try the number one bike again. Both the engine and tyres are working well, but we might make some small changes to our chassis set-up depending on the conditions for morning warm-up. I've enjoyed myself so far at my first MotoGP event for Kawasaki, and I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's race."
Kawasaki Racing Team