A productive test for the team
The Kawasaki Racing Team completed a productive two-day test at the Jerez circuit in Andalusia this afternoon, with Olivier Jacque topping the timesheet in the wet yesterday, and Randy de Puniet finishing top three in dry conditions today.
Yesterday's persistent rain meant that for the first time this season both Kawasaki riders had the opportunity to test their Ninja ZX-RR machines in full wet conditions, which they took full advantage of. Jacque quickly got to grips with the difficult track conditions and Bridgestone's wet weather tyres to record the fastest time of the day, just ahead of Kawasaki teammate de Puniet, who finished second fastest of the 19 riders participating in yesterday's test. Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen finished third fastest, making it a Bridgestone one-two-three at the top of the timesheet.
Overnight rain meant that the Jerez circuit was still damp as the Kawasaki Racing Team arrived this morning to start the second day of testing, but clear skies and a warm conditions meant that the track was declared dry enough for constructive testing just after lunchtime.
The dry conditions this afternoon meant that Jacque and de Puniet could finally begin working through the test programme that had to be postponed yesterday, with de Puniet testing for the first time Bridgestone's new front qualifying tyre, as well as revised rear qualifying rubber from the Japanese tyre giant.
The two riders also tested revised engine components, designed by Kawasaki's development engineers back in Akashi, Japan to liberate more power from the 800cc, inline four-cylinder Ninja ZX-RR engine, with positive results.
Also evaluated today were new rear suspension components, which de Puniet and Jacque agreed gave a significant improvement and made the bike easier to turn through both fast and slow corners; an area which the two Kawasaki riders had identified as being a problem at this circuit in the run up to Sunday's race.
Finally, de Puniet also tested a revised seating position on his Ninja ZX-RR, designed to create a more aerodynamic profile on the straights and improve outright top speed, again with positive results.
This combination of new engine and suspension components allowed both Kawasaki riders to improve on their best race laps by over half-a-second today on race tyres. Jacque finished today sixth fastest and de Puniet finished third behind the Hondas of Marco Melandri and Toni Elias, making it another Bridgestone one-two-three at the top of the timesheet for the second day running.
After two productive days of testing the two Kawasaki riders are now looking forward to the next race in Turkey, which takes place after a brief three-week break at the Istanbul Park circuit on 22nd April.
Randy de Puniet :
"Yesterday in the rain we initially had some problems with rear grip, but because it stayed wet all day we had the chance to make some changes to the set-up of the bike, and at the end it felt a lot better. Today we tried quite a few things on the bike. By changing my riding position it was easier for me to get right down behind the screen on the straights, and this is good for our top speed. The new suspension components also made a difference, with the bike now easier to turn and the rear traction, which we had problems with all weekend, much improved. Overall, it's been a very positive two days of testing for us."
Olivier Jacque :
"It was the first time on this bike in the wet for both me and Randy yesterday. We managed to improve rear traction throughout the day and, while there is still room for further improvement, I was happy with the feeling of the bike overall. Today started much better than we finished on Sunday. I was really frustrated after the race, so today was all about finding solutions to the problems I'd experienced during practice, qualifying and the race itself. I talked through all the problems with my crew, and I had a much better feeling with the bike they gave me today compared to the one I raced on Sunday. We worked our way through a whole list of changes this afternoon, and there was definitely a significant improvement, which is always good for restoring confidence. I was happy with my lap time in the end, and now I'm looking forward to the next race in Turkey."
Naoya Kaneko, Technical Manager :
"We had a fairly intensive test programme to get through during these two days, so the rain on Monday wasn't ideal for us. But, it did give us a chance to test our bike in full wet conditions for the first time, so it wasn't a wasted day. Again, the weather meant that it wasn't possible to test properly this morning, but the conditions this afternoon were much better. With the revised engine parts we're seeing more power from our engine, although we know there is still some work to do in this area yet. The riders said the bike was easier to turn when they tested the new suspension parts and set-up today, and Randy commented that he felt rear traction was also improved; both problems that the riders experienced here ahead of the race. Despite the problems with the weather, both riders have improved on their race lap times by over half-a-second, so this has definitely been a productive test for Kawasaki."