Estoril : Kawasaki - Day One
A dusty track surface, and the resulting lack of grip, left Kawasaki's Shinya Nakano and Randy de Puniet down in tenth and fourteenth place respectively after today's opening day of practice at Estoril.
While resurfacing work ahead of
this weekend's Portuguese Grand Prix has improved the notoriously bumpy Estoril circuit, the problem of windblown dust on the track surface remains, with both Kawasaki riders reporting a lack of rear grip throughout both of today's hour-long practice sessions.
Despite the problems, Nakano remains confident that the base set-up of his Ninja ZX-RR will allow him to improve on both his lap time and his position tomorrow, once more laps on the circuit have started to clean off the surface.
The dusty conditions also made evaluating revised suspension components difficult for the 29-year-old Kawasaki rider. Nakano did notice some improvement in the stability of his Ninja ZX-RR under heavy braking, which is important at Estoril, but he also feels there is more work to be done to improve the way the bike tracks through the faster turns.
Randy de Puniet was also left looking for a solution to his rear grip problems after today's opening two practice sessions. The 25-year-old Frenchman was struggling for grip from the start this morning, with the rear of his Ninja ZX-RR spinning up under acceleration, losing him valuable time on every lap.
Changes to the set-up of de Puniet's Ninja ZX-RR were made during both practice sessions to try and increase rear traction, but no significant improvement was forthcoming and, together with his crew, the Kawasaki pilot will need to look to the data for a solution ahead of tomorrow's practice and qualifying sessions.
Shinya Nakano: 10th - 1'39.161
"Track conditions were far from ideal today. The resurfacing work means there are fewer bumps than before, but the track is still very dusty, and this made it difficult to find the grip we need to assess our tyre options for Sunday's race. The lack of grip also makes it a little difficult to evaluate fully the revised suspension components we are running on my Ninja ZX-RR this weekend. Already I can feel an improvement in the stability of the bike under heavy braking - of which there is a lot here - we still need to refine the set-up further for the fast corners, as it was a struggle to get the bike turned at speed today. We know we have a good base setting, so I'm not so worried about my lap times today; when the track surface cleans off a little more tomorrow then I'm confident that the lap times will come."
Randy de Puniet: 14th - 1'40.096
"Today was not so good for us. This morning we were struggling for rear grip, and the changes we made to our set-up for this afternoon's session didn't give us the improvement we were expecting. For sure, the track surface is still very dusty, but out of the turns the power seems to be coming in a little too hard, and the lack of grip means the rear is spinning up almost immediately. I know it's possible for me to go at least one second faster if I can get the rear to hook up out of the corners, so we need to come up with a solution for this problem ahead of tomorrow's practice and qualifying sessions. The track surface will also improve the more laps we do tomorrow, and this should, hopefully, make things a little easier for us."
Naoya Kaneko: Technical Manager
"While track conditions were obviously difficult today, it was the same for everyone, and we can see that some of our competitors are finding more grip than we are. Tomorrow we will try some changes to the suspension settings on both bikes, as well as different tyres from Bridgestone. With these changes I think it's possible to improve rear traction for both Shinya and Randy, and to close the gap on the riders who are at the top of the timesheet after today's opening two practice sessions."
Kawasaki Racing Team