Jerez : Kawasaki – Day One
Kawasaki Racing Team riders, Randy de Puniet and Olivier Jacque were left looking for inspiration at the conclusion of today's free practice at Jerez, after problems during both hour-long track sessions left them down in 14th and 19th place respectively.
The Kawasaki Racing Team enjoyed a successful three-day test at the Jerez circuit less than one month ago, but the change in track temperature and surface conditions between then and now meant that both riders were struggling to find useable grip around the tight and technical 4.423 km track during today's two, one-hour free practice sessions.
After the disappointment of failing to finish in the opening race, de Puniet worked tirelessly today to find a solution to his rear traction problems. The 26-year-old Frenchman worked his way through a number of different combinations of chassis and suspension set-up, as he sought a solution to the problem of the rear tyre spinning up under acceleration.
His efforts, combined with a rise in track temperature, paid dividends during this afternoon's free practice period, with the Kawasaki pilot posting a lap time more than a second faster than this morning's best effort.
A lack of rear traction was also a problem for de Puniet's Kawasaki teammate, Olivier Jacque. In addition to the problems at the rear, the 33-year-old Frenchman also struggled with a lack of confidence in the front end of his Ninja ZX-RR.
A slight improvement to the set-up of the bike meant that Jacque was able to test the tyre options available late in this afternoon's session, but will hold off on making a decision about a race tyre until he's had another chance to work with his crew to refine the set-up of his Ninja ZX-RR during the final free practice session tomorrow.
Confident that track conditions will be better suited to their Ninja ZX-RR machines tomorrow, both Kawasaki pilots will continue to work on set-up, before switching to qualifying tyres at the end of the second track session in order to secure a good grid position for Sunday's 27-lap Spanish Grand Prix.
Randy de Puniet :
"Well this weekend definitely didn't start as we hoped or expected. It was a hard practice day today, as we experienced a lot of problems with the rear. The bike was sliding a lot in almost every corner. We tried different tyres from the choice we have for this weekend, but the performance was not what we were hoping for. The bike improved a lot in the afternoon and, looking at the timesheets, the gap with respect to the front guys is not so big. We are still confident, as we just need to adapt to the situation and we know our bike is capable of going well here."
Olivier Jacque :
"This morning we didn't have any rear grip at all. I was expecting it to be better in the afternoon, as the track temperature increased, but even though it improved a little, it was not enough. The rear wheel kept spinning a lot and I had no traction, which prevented me carrying good corner speed. We tried different suspension settings, mainly on the rear, but also on the front as well. It looked to be better, although we need to confirm it tomorrow. The new engine mapping seems to make the power delivery friendlier at the bottom, but it still needs to be adjusted for full throttle."
"If we look just at our position, we are far behind the top riders, but looking at the lap times, we are not. Certainly, we need to be faster but with surface conditions improving tomorrow and some adjustments in the machine's balance, I think we will be ready for the race, which will be held under warmer conditions. The new ignition mapping seems to work and we have already decided the tyres. Though the temperature is a little higher now, I don't think we will have problems."