“We are definitely moving in the right direction”
Randy de Puniet and Olivier Jacque confirmed during three more days of testing at the Sepang circuit this week that Kawasaki's new 800cc Ninja ZX-RR is on track for a competitive race debut at the Grand Prix of Qatar in just
four weeks time.
Both Kawasaki riders used three uninterrupted days of track time in Malaysia to focus on chassis and suspension set-up, as well as evaluating new tyres from Bridgestone that have been developed specifically for the new 800cc MotoGP racers.
This intensive test schedule included a race simulation for both riders on each of the three days, during which they completing more than 400 laps of the 5.543 km Sepang circuit.
Both riders reported a noticeable improvement as rear tyre grip deteriorated towards the end of their race simulations, with the performance drop off due to reduced rear traction seen during the last Sepang test being noticeably reduced.
For Olivier Jacque, this second test provided another opportunity to prepare for his first full season in the MotoGP class since 2003. One of the most experienced riders on this year's MotoGP grid, the former World Champion has quickly settled in to the role of factory rider again, and has built up a good working relationship with his new crew, and his new crew chief, Fiorenzo Fanali.
With a year of experience on the 990cc Ninja ZX-RR and Bridgestone tyres, Randy de Puniet was again the faster of the two Kawasaki riders during this second three-day test. The 24-year-old Frenchman completed a marathon 237 laps of the Sepang circuit over the course of the test, refining both the set-up of the bike and adapting his riding style to post consistent lap times throughout.
The Kawasaki Racing Team will now move on to the Doha International Circuit in Qatar for their third pre-season test, which will run from 13-15 February.
Randy de Puniet: 237 Laps - Best Lap 2'02.05
"We've had a good three days. The consistency of my lap times has improved with each race simulation, which I'm obviously happy about. This is basically down to small changes in the set-up of the bike, but I've also adapted slightly my riding style to get the best from the bike as well. Ideally I would have liked to set my fastest lap of the test on the final day, but it was at least 10 degrees hotter today than it was for the first two days, which meant it just wasn't possible. Now, after two successful tests at Sepang, I'm looking forward to riding the bike at Qatar and Jerez, where I'm confident that we will be able to confirm we have found a good base set-up on the new Ninja ZX-RR."
Olivier Jacque: 193 Laps - Best Lap 2'02.58
"It's been a pretty exhausting test. We've run a few race simulations to check reliability, and that's always hard physically in the heat here in Malaysia. But, while it has been hard work, I'm very happy with what we've achieved over the three days. I understand better the set-up of the bike, and also the effect that changes to the set-up have on overall performance. This is important for the future. I felt better and better on the bike with each day, and that could be seen in the improvement of my lap times, but there is definitely still more to come. I'm not pushing so hard right now, as I'm still adapting to being a racer again after spending so long as a development rider, but I know what I am capable of and I know the speed will be there come the first race. So, overall, a very positive test for us."
Naoya Kaneko: Technical Manager
"Our main focus has been on the performance of our bike over race distance. We have run several race simulations over the three days and we've seen significant improvements as a result of set-up changes and new tyres from Bridgestone. The fact that we had three uninterrupted days of testing, with the riders out on track from ten in the morning until six at night, means that we've also managed to collect plenty of data that we will now feed into our development process. Yes, we still have some work to do ahead of the first race, but this second successful test confirms that we are definitely moving in the right direction with the bike."
Kawasaki Racing Team