Motegi : Kawasaki - Race
The curse of Motegi struck again for the Kawasaki Racing Team today as, for the second year in succession, all three Kawasaki riders failed to finish in this afternoon's Japanese Grand Prix.
But, despite the obvious disappointment of the final
results, both Shinya Nakano and Randy de Puniet showed the potential of Kawasaki's latest Ninja ZX-RR, fighting for top ten positions before crashes brought their Japanese Grand Prix weekend to a premature close.
Nakano was quick away from the line, slotting in behind the leading group of riders and matching their pace during the opening laps of the race. As the leading trio managed to pull out a gap at the front of the race, Nakano was quick to pass Casey Stoner, who crashed out of the race shortly afterwards, and started to close on Sete Gibernau in fourth place.
The 28-year-old Kawasaki rider waited until the final lap before trying a pass on Gibernau, diving up the inside of the Spaniard at the end of the back straight. Nakano got into the turn a little too hot, and was left with no option but to pick his bike up mid-corner, as Gibernau cut across his front wheel to firmly close the door.
Nakano's front tyre touched Gibernau's rear wheel as he attempted to recover, launching the Kawasaki pilot over the top of his Ninja ZX-RR and out of the race.
Randy de Puniet's crew were forced to change the engine on his Ninja ZX-RR after this morning's 20-minute warm-up session, and the 25-year-old Frenchman noticed an immediate difference on the opening lap of the race.
The more aggressive power delivery of the replacement engine caused his rear Bridgestone to spin up out of the turns, forcing the Kawasaki pilot to ride more on the front tyre, with predictable results. De Puniet lost the front of his Ninja ZX-RR and crashed out of the race on lap nine, while fighting for ninth place with Colin Edwards and Makoto Tamada.
Kawasaki's wild card rider, Naoki Matsudo, was also forced to retire from the race on lap nine, after a mechanical failure on his Ninja ZX-RR left him with no other option but to return to the pits.
Despite the disappointment of the Motegi weekend, the Kawasaki Racing Team are confident that the latest specification Ninja ZX-RR is capable of allowing Shinya Nakano and Randy de Puniet to end the season on a high, with strong performances in the final two races at Estoril and Valencia.
Shinya Nakano : "What can I say; I was here to race, so I had to try for fourth place on the last lap. I'd already decided that if the gap were too big at the end of the straight then I wouldn't risk a pass. But the opportunity was there, so I took it. I got into the turn a little bit too hot, and both tyres were sliding by the time Sete shut the door on me. I could have held onto the brakes, but then we'd both have crashed, so I picked the bike up and tried to run straight on. Unfortunately, I clipped Sete's rear wheel and crashed. I'm sorry for the team, because the bike and tyres have been good all weekend, my lap times were consistent and we were looking forward to a good result this afternoon. In the end, the result is that I've given them some work to do fixing the crashed bike. But, like I said, I came here to race, so I had to go for it. Now we must look forward to the final two races, because I think it's still possible to improve my final position in the championship standings."
Randy de Puniet : "What a disappointment. Practice and qualifying went well for us yesterday, and we proved again during morning warm-up that our race set-up was good, but then we had to swap an engine ahead of the race and it changed the whole character of the bike. The rear was spinning up too easily out of the turns, and I lost a lot of time early on in the race when the rear threatened to come round on me a few times. From that point I was riding more on the front, and that's when I crashed. We now need to find out why my race engine felt so different to the engine we ran this morning, so we can avoid the same problem at the last two races of the season."
Naoki Matsudo : "I had some problems with the engine right from the start of the race; it felt down on power from the off and the problem seemed to be getting worse with each lap. I tried to keep the bike running as long as I could, but it just wasn't possible to continue past lap nine. It's disappointing not to finish my only MotoGP race of the season, but I've learnt a lot this weekend, and this will help me with my test and development duties for Kawasaki in the future."
Kawasaki Racing Team