Qatar : Kawasaki – Day One
The months of waiting finally came to an end in Qatar today, as this morning's hour-long free practice session marked the official start of the 2007 MotoGP World Championship season.
But it was a tough opening day for Kawasaki's Randy de
Puniet and Olivier Jacque, as they struggled to match the top end speed of their factory rivals along the Losail International circuit's one kilometre long main straight.
26-year-old de Puniet managed to improve upon his best time from the recent test in Qatar to end the day thirteenth fastest overall, but the Kawasaki pilot is confident that there is more to come tomorrow. De Puniet focussed his efforts today on tyre testing with Bridgestone, to identify the race tyre best suited to the unique characteristics of the Losail circuit, and the weather conditions under which Saturday's race will most likely be run.
The Frenchman ended the session happy with his race tyre choices, but he will continue testing other options tomorrow, as he works to refine the set-up of his Ninja ZX-RR ahead of the first qualifying session of the new season.
After being sidelined from the recent Qatar test through injury, Jacque made a steady start to the season in today's two practice sessions. The 33-year-old Frenchman suffered a minor technical problem early on in the morning session, which caused him to run off the track, but was soon back up to speed on his number two machine.
During both hour-long sessions Jacque and his crew concentrated on improving the feel and feedback from the front end of his Ninja ZX-RR, eventually finding a set-up he had confidence in.
After a steady start the Kawasaki pilot ended the day seventeenth on the timesheet but, like his teammate, he feels there is definitely room for improvement tomorrow.
Randy de Puniet: 13th - 46 Laps - Best Lap 1'57.686
"The base set-up we have is working well here and I was able to put in some fast and consistent laps this afternoon. Late on in the session we tried another race tyre option and I think that, with more time on this tyre tomorrow, it could well lead to an improvement in my lap time during Saturday's race. We still need to work a little more on refining the overall set-up of the bike, but it's fairly obvious that we are a little bit down on top speed here. The bike is quick through the few fast corners on this track, but we're losing out at other points, like on the main straight."
Olivier Jacque: 17th - 40 Laps - Best Lap 1'58.523
"After the crash that I had here during the test, we decided to take it easy and not hurry today. We had a tough morning, firstly with a gearbox problem that caused me to run straight on a couple of times, and then with a complete lack of feeling on the front like I had no grip. I was not confident of ending the first day with a good feeling, but we did a couple of front suspension modifications for my last run and I feel that we are now going in the right direction."
Naoya Kaneko: Technical Manager
"Looking at our position maybe it was not the start that we expected, but this was almost the first time out for Olivier at this track, and Randy was faster than the previous test. Everybody has made improvements since the last time that we came here and that is one of the reasons why we are a little bit behind. The Ninja ZX-RR base set-up is good but for tomorrow we have to keep working to improve our package, and it will be vital to get the most out of the qualifying tyres. It needs to be remembered that we are still at an early stage of development and today it is been the first day. We have to remain upbeat and confident for the future."