Jerez : Kawasaki - Preview
After a hard start to the year in Qatar just over seven days ago, the Kawasaki Racing Team head for the first European round of the new season at the technical Jerez circuit, for Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix.
The technical Andalusian circuit
welcomes back all the MotoGP teams less than a month after the Official IRTA test at the track, which saw Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet and Olivier Jacque top the timesheets on the final day of testing.
Now having got over the crash that saw him fail to finish in the season opener in Qatar, Randy de Puniet has good reason to be confident heading into the second round of the championship. The 26-year-old Frenchman finished twice on the podium at Jerez in the 250cc world championship, and was consistently in the top ten during the recent IRTA test, setting consistent times on race tyres before finishing fifth fastest overall during the annual qualifying shootout.
Despite the fact that he had to withdraw from last year's race after sustaining injuries in a morning warm up crash, Kawasaki's young gun heads to Jerez determined to kick-start his season with a strong result in Sunday's race.
De Puniet's Kawasaki teammate, Olivier Jacque, had a steady start to the season with a 12th place finish in Qatar, but the 33-year-old Frenchman heads for Jerez determined to take another big step forward in his transition from development rider to full-time racer.
Jacque is the first to admit that he still has some work to do if he is to regain his race pace, which he hopes to achieve this week during the build up to the Spanish Grand Prix. The Kawasaki pilot will also work on taking full advantage of Bridgestone's qualifying tyres, in a bid to improve on his fifth row grid position in Qatar.
With race tyres already selected, both Kawasaki riders will be free to continue refining set-up on their Ninja ZX-RR machines during practice and qualifying for Sunday's race.
They will also have the first opportunity to test at Jerez changes to the ignition mapping tested in Qatar and designed specifically to alleviate the abrupt power delivery that both riders commented on during last month's IRTA test.
Randy de Puniet: #14
"Jerez is one of my favourite tracks; it is very technical but fun to ride. I like the style of the corners; second-third gear in the corner and even fourth gear at the last part, which makes you take them at very high speed. The atmosphere at this track is amazing, crowded with people from all over the world. The main straight is not so long, which is good for us, but it is not easy to overtake. There are only three points where you can pass: the first and last corners and after the back straight. We were very competitive there during the IRTA tests, with only an issue with the engine power delivery. In Qatar we tried different mappings that helped a lot and I hope we will confirm it on Friday. If we can get a good grid slot and make a good start, I hope I can fight for a top six or seven finish. But I won't take unnecessary risks this time, as my main concern is to finish the race, though I will try to do it in the best position possible."
Olivier Jacque: #19
"The Qatar race was the first step, but I know that the race rhythm was not so fast and I need to improve it here. The most important thing was to understand the bike better and check myself. Now I know that I am still capable to race and that makes me face this GP with more confidence. Jerez is a demanding and technical circuit; short, narrow and a bit bumpy. The last test here was hard because the bike was not so easy to ride, but this time will be better. The straight is shorter than Qatar, the power delivery has been improved and one of the strengths of our machine is the corner speed, which is very important in Jerez. I am very optimistic for this race but not under any illusions as there are still some things that need to be improved, both from the machine side and myself, to be 100% competitive."
Ichiro Yoda: Kawasaki Racing Director
"Randy didn't achieve his target in Qatar, but I'm sure this time he will. We had a talk and I asked him to be calmer this time and finish the race. We would be happy if he could qualify on second or first row and finish the race among the first eight. Olivier showed his talent in Qatar and we hope he will start from third row and finish in the top ten this time. We already have a very good set up for Jerez that only needs to be adjusted. The procedure will be easier this weekend. We know the track and successfully tested there a month ago, finishing first and second. The engine was the main problem then, but in Qatar we found some solutions that made the power delivery friendlier from the bottom to full throttle. I hope we can corroborate that as the rest of the package is already working very well."