Jerez : Kawasaki – Day Two
Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet was disappointed to end today's qualifying session ahead of tomorrow's Spanish Grand Prix in twelfth position, despite lapping less than half-a-second off the pole position time set by Honda's Dani Pedrosa.
de Puniet will start tomorrow's 27-lap race from the fourth row of the grid, his Kawasaki teammate, Olivier Jacque, is facing a much tougher challenge, as he tries to make up places from the sixth row of the grid, after finishing today's hour-long timed session in 16th position.
Subtle adjustments to the chassis and suspension set-up of de Puniet's Ninja ZX-RR during today's practice and qualifying periods led to a slight improvement in rear traction, with the Kawasaki pilot lapping consistently on race tyres before switching to the first of his three qualifying tyres halfway through this afternoon's timed session.
His first run saw him top the timesheet for a short time, with Jacque just behind in second place, but de Puniet soon found himself demoted to 12th position on the grid as his MotoGP rivals also switched from race tyres to soft qualifying rubber as the end of the session approached.
De Puniet will approach tomorrow's Spanish Grand Prix in the same way as always, aiming to get a good start and then trying to stay in contact with the leading group of riders for as long as possible. Tyre life will be critical in tomorrow's race, and the 26-year-old Frenchman will be looking to use the consistency of his Bridgestone tyres to maximum effect should any of his rivals start to suffer with tyre wear towards the end of the 27 laps.
Olivier Jacque was disappointed not to have made the same level of improvement today as his teammate. The 33-year-old Kawasaki rider worked his way through a number of different chassis and suspension set-up options today, but was unable to significantly improve his feeling on the Ninja ZX-RR.
Despite a rise in track temperature increasing available grip in the afternoon, Jacque was still complaining of a lack of confidence in the front end of his Ninja ZX-RR as the end of the timed session approached, leaving him with no option but to switch to qualifying tyres and simply ride the bike as best as he could. Struggling to get the bike turned around the tight and technical Jerez circuit, Jacque was unable to take full advantage of his qualifying tyres and eventually had to settle for 16th position on the grid for tomorrow's Spanish Grand Prix.
The qualifying performance of both riders fell short of the targets set by Kawasaki's Racing Director, Ichiro Yoda, but the Japanese engineer had nothing but praise for de Puniet and Jacque, as they were forced to overcome handling problems that were absent during the IRTA test at Jerez just one month ago.
Both Kawasaki riders will be aiming to further improve their race set-up during morning warm-up tomorrow.
Randy de Puniet :
"Compared with yesterday, this morning I felt better riding the bike and I improved my lap times on race tyres in the afternoon. With the changes done, we reduced a little the rear tyre sliding but it is not enough. I don't feel yet at 100% but I hope to make the last adjustments tomorrow morning. With the qualifying tyres I improved my lap times with every set that I used. Finally I did the same lap time that I did here one month ago at the IRTA test, but today I have qualified twelfth. If I do a good start tomorrow, I think that a top ten position is still possible."
Olivier Jacque :
"We worked hard this morning but things seemed not to change at all compared to yesterday; it was a little bit frustrating. However, things went a little bit better in the afternoon, although I don't like the way the bike is working on the track. We don't have enough rear grip; I fight to make the bike turn and I can't keep the speed in the corner. The bike is controllable but not efficient. I improved my lap times and I felt more comfortable with the qualifying tyres than I was in Qatar, but I couldn't do it better."
Ichiro Yoda :
"This is not the position in which we expected to be, but after two days of practice and qualifying sessions, in which we suffered some problems that we weren't expecting, we discovered some areas that need to be improved both in chassis and engine. Both riders have done a good job, but we need to improve three or four tenths making the power delivery friendlier and working in other areas to improve rear tyre grip. We have found some directions to follow for Monday's test, as we have almost dismissed this race. Our hopes are not really high, though we expect our riders to finish the race and do it in the points."