Valencia : Kawasaki - Preview
Shinya Nakano and Randy de Puniet will be looking to end the year on a high this weekend, as the Kawasaki Racing Team head for the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia for the final race of the 2006 championship season.
Shinya Nakano in
particular will be aiming for a strong finish in Sunday's 30-lap Valencia Grand Prix, to end a streak of bad luck that has seen him crash out of the previous two races. But, while reaching the chequered flag on Sunday is his number one priority, the 29-year-old Japanese rider is adamant that he won't be playing it safe this weekend.
Nakano is determined to realise the true potential of the Ninja ZX-RR that he has spent all year developing, and he arrives in Valencia confident that Sunday's race will provide him with an ideal opportunity to achieve his aim, and to finish the season on a high note.
Randy de Puniet scored his best result of the season so far last time out in Estoril, finishing a creditable tenth after battling with rear grip problems throughout the race. The 25-year-old Frenchman arrives in Valencia determined to carry this momentum through into Sunday's race, where he'll be aiming to improve on his Estoril performance.
Now the traditional host of the final race of the year, the Valencia circuit is unique in that it is the only stadium style venue that the MotoGP series visits during the course of the season. The 4 km track is surrounded by grandstands, from which spectators will enjoy an unrestricted view of Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden battling it out in the season finale, to decide who will be crowned world champion.
The Spanish race fans have a reputation for being vocal in their support, and with all 225,000 tickets for this weekend sold out weeks ago, the atmosphere for Sunday's 30-lap race promises to be very special indeed.
Shinya Nakano: #56
"I've crashed out of the last two races, so the priority at Valencia must be to finish the final race of the season. This year has been all about developing our new engine, and I think we've reached the point now where, as a package, the Ninja ZX- RR is competitive. We've had some bad luck recently, which means we haven't been able to realise the bike's full potential, so it would be good to end the season with a strong result, just to show how much progress we've made with the Ninja ZX-RR over the past sixteen races. Valencia is a very technical track, which suits both my riding style and the characteristics of our bike, and I have won here on the 250cc machine in the past. The first corner and the hairpin at turn two are critical to a fast lap here. Last year we suffered some chattering at these two turns, but I'm confident that we won't struggle with the same problem this time around. I'm looking forward to Sunday's race, and I will be aiming for the best result possible to mark the end of the season."
Randy de Puniet: #17
"This is the last race of the season, and it is important for me to mark the end of my first year in the MotoGP World Championship with a good result this weekend. Last time out at Estoril I had my first top ten finish, and I hope that we can improve further here at Valencia. I like this track. I've been fast here in the past on the 250cc bike, and I hope I will be just as fast on the MotoGP machine. There is no respite here; you need to be completely focused on every lap. The circuit is very technical, and even as you enter one corner you must be thinking about the next, as the turns flow together. Make a mistake anywhere on the lap, and it's almost impossible to recover the time lost. Sunday's race is a long one, and I think consistency will be key to a good result, so that's what we'll be working towards during practice and qualifying."