Jacque and De Puniet make good progress
Randy de Puniet and Olivier Jacque completed more than 700 trouble free kilometres during the opening day of testing at Sepang, with the younger Frenchman underlining the potential of Kawasaki's new 800cc Ninja ZX-RR by finishing the
day seventh fastest overall.
De Puniet and Jacque rode Kawasaki's new MotoGP racer briefly during shakedown tests at Sepang back in November, but neither could believe just how much progress Kawasaki's development engineers have made with the Ninja ZX-RR in such a short space of time.
Minor mechanical problems cut short that first test, but there were no such reliability issues today, as the two Kawasaki pilots completed a total of 132 laps of the 5.543km Sepang circuit without incident.
Having quickly found a base set-up they were satisfied with on the new bike, both de Puniet and Jacque declared themselves happy with the progress made today. Both riders were able to show on track that, despite such a short development time, the power of Kawasaki's 800cc inline four-cylinder engine was already a match for that of their factory rivals. Equally important was the consistency of the engine's power delivery, with no reduction in performance even at the end of today's test.
But, while Kawasaki's two pilots were happy to make such a positive start to the new season, both know that they face a heavy test and development schedule in the lead up to the first race in Qatar.
Tomorrow both Kawasaki riders will concentrate their efforts on finding a good balance with the Ninja ZX-RR chassis, before switching their attention to tyre testing in support of Bridgestone's development programme.
The characteristics of the 800cc engine place very different demands on the rear tyre compared to the older 990cc motor, and this is an area in which Kawasaki can help accelerate Bridgestone's tyre development with the supply of test data and rider feedback.
Randy de Puniet: #14 - 72 Laps - Best Lap 2'03.542
"It is hard to believe that this is the same bike that we tested back in November. Two months ago we could see that the bike had some potential, but my feeling then was that realising this potential was going to take some time. But, this morning, I couldn't believe the transformation Kawasaki's engineers have made in such a short time. Already the bike feels competitive, but I think there is more performance to be found once we get down to refining the set-up further. I completed more than 70 laps without any problems today, and my lap time was pretty good, but we will be looking to improve further over the next two days. Today was a good start to our test programme, but there is still some work to be done over the next few weeks if we are to be ready for the first race of the season."
Olivier Jacque: #19 - 60 Laps - Best Lap 2'04.718
"I'm happy with what we've achieved today. From the first lap this morning it was obvious that Kawasaki's engineers have made some big improvements to the bike since our first test here last year. Our priority today was to identify a good base set-up on the bike, and I think we've achieved that, so tomorrow we can move on to the next thing on our test schedule. It's been easy to find a good way of working with Fiorenzo Fanali and my new crew, and I think the working relationship will get even easier as we progress through a heavy test programme ahead of the first race. Overall, today was a good way to start the new season."
Michael Bartholemy: Kawasaki Competition Manager
"This is the start to the season that we needed. Sure, it would have been nice to finish the first day at the top of the timesheet, but today's performance was certainly enough to silence those doubters who thought we wouldn't even make it to the first test. The fact that we're here and ready to start the season is down to a lot of hard work on the part of everyone involved with the Kawasaki Racing Team, and the fact that we had a trouble free day and finished with a respectable lap time is down to an equal measure of hard work on the part of everyone in Kawasaki's race department back in Japan. Now we need to build on this successful start and refine our new Ninja ZX-RR ahead of the first race of the season in Qatar. It's a tall order, but I think we've shown today that the potential is there; both with the bike and with everyone working on Kawasaki's MotoGP project."