Estoril : Kawasaki - Preview
After the disappointment of the Japanese Grand Prix, the Kawasaki Racing Team return to Europe in confident mood ahead of this weekend's penultimate race at the Circuito Estoril in Portugal.
Determined to end the season on a high note,
with good results in the final two races, Shinya Nakano returned to Europe soon after the Japanese Grand Prix, to complete a four- day training camp in France before heading to Portugal for this weekend's race.
Nakano celebrated his 29th birthday on 10th October with a strenuous training run in the mountains around his Clermont Ferrand base, with his training partners singing happy birthday to the Kawasaki pilot at the summit of the final climb.
Although not a big fan of the Estoril circuit, Nakano feels confident that, if he can find a good race set-up on his Ninja ZX-RR during practice and qualifying, then a good result in Sunday's 28-lap Grand Prix of Portugal is a distinct possibility.
While most people in the MotoGP paddock welcomed the time off between the three overseas rounds and the penultimate race of the season at Estoril, this weekend couldn't come quick enough for Randy de Puniet.
Like his Kawasaki teammate, the 25-year-old Frenchman has been training hard for this weekend's race, spending the time since returning to Europe from Japan riding his mountain bike in the hills surrounding his home.
Although making his MotoGP debut at the Estoril circuit, de Puniet has fond memories of Portugal, having qualified on pole position for the 250cc race here last year, in which he set a new lap record on his way to a podium finish.
182 km Estoril circuit is one of contrasts; tight technical corners are combined with long straights to produce a challenging layout that tests both man and machine to the limit. The infamous chicane is the slowest corner on the MotoGP calendar, and one at which a mistake on entry can lose a rider not only time, but also many positions in the race.
For this year's race the exit of the uphill chicane has been widened and resurfaced, with other resurfacing work being carried out on two additional sections of track. Whether the new tarmac will reduce the notoriously bumpy nature of the Estoril circuit remains to be seen.
Located as it is next to the Atlantic Ocean, the weather can also play a big part at Estoril. Conditions are often changeable, and the high winds that occasionally blow in from the sea can also create big problems for the riders, although the weather forecast for this weekend promises only gentle sea breezes.
Shinya Nakano: #56
"I can't believe there are only two races to go; the season seems to have flown by. While not finishing my home race was disappointing, we didn't have such a bad overseas trip overall, and this makes me confident that we can end the year with two good results at Estoril and Valencia. To be honest, Estoril is not one of my favourite circuits. There are some high-speed corners here, but this is also a circuit that is hard on the brakes, and for this it is important that we find a good balance with the set-up of the engine and the chassis. Since Japan, I have been working hard in France with my trainer, and I arrive at Estoril fighting fit, raring to go, and determined to end the season on a high with two good performances in the final two races of the year."
Randy de Puniet: #17
"Since Japan I've been impatient to get back on the bike, so this weekend couldn't come quick enough for me. I quite like the Estoril circuit; I qualified on pole position here last year aboard the 250cc machine, set the lap record in the race and then finished on the podium. For sure it will be different on the Ninja ZX-RR MotoGP bike, but I'm confident that our machine will work well here. There is a lot of heavy braking for the slower corners here, where it's very easy to make a mistake and lose time, so it is important that we set the bike up during practice and qualifying to be stable under braking. The main straight here is long, and the fast right-hand turn leading on to it is critical to a good lap time. You must carry high corner speed through this long turn, but you must also get on the gas as early as possible at the exit, to maximise your speed down the straight. We have made some big improvements to the bike during the last few races, so I think a good result here is a definite possibility."
Kawasaki Racing Team