A NAIL-BITING DAY FOR KAWASAKI IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC
Randy de Puniet and Anthony West will start tomorrow's Czech Republic Grand Prix from fifth and 16th on the grid respectively after today's qualifying practice at Brno.
During the warm and dry final free practice session this morning, de Puniet rode at a terrific pace at what is one of his favourite venues. His efforts put him in third place, just behind Casey Stoner and John Hopkins, with a best time of 1'58.939 around the twisty, 5.4km circuit.
During the afternoon's qualifying session, he was initially delayed by a minor mechanical problem on his number one bike, but quickly got to grips with his number two machine to qualify on the second row. Taking his 800cc Ninja ZX-RR up to a top speed of 286kmh, with a time of 1'57.599, he came in just ahead of seven times world champion, Valentino Rossi.
Qualifying practice brought with it further improvement in West's lap times on race tyres, with the 26-year-old Australian showing a best lap of 1'59.386, and a top speed of 285.7kmh, as he continued to display increasing promise around the Czech circuit on his Bridgestone-shod Kawasaki.
However, lack of familiarity with sticky qualifying tyres is proving tricky for West. This year's new tyre regulations mean there is no opportunity to test on them during a race weekend, outside qualifying sessions and, given West only joined the Kawasaki Racing Team in June, he has not been able to perfect his use of them, which today affected his final time.
On race tyres though, the former 250cc rider and World Supersport winner was on the pace and that is what will matter when the lights go off on the grid tomorrow. Aiming to continue his run of excellent finishes, West is realistic about the battle ahead, bearing in mind his starting position but, having found a suitable set up, tied with his characteristic determination, he's still very much one to watch.
Sunday's race at the Brno Automotodrom will be the 12th out of this year's 18-round MotoGP season and will take place after a final warm-up session for the riders in the morning.
De Puniet - #14 - 5th - Best Lap 1'57.599
"My position isn't as good as I'd hoped for but I'm still feeling very optimistic for the race as I've been going well all weekend. I had some problems in the qualifying session, so my initial lap times weren't as strong as this morning, but we made some modifications to the bike and, towards the end, I did some pretty good times. Sure, I'm disappointed because I think the first row would have been possible today but the second row is not so bad. We have good tyres and a good set up, I like it here and I hope to do well."
West - #13 - 16th - Best Lap 1'59.386
"That session wasn't as good as I'd hoped it would be, obviously, but I was going quicker than in earlier practice sessions, which is very positive. I'm not really happy with how I qualified, and I'm still not getting the best from the qualifying tyres, but on race tyres I was going well. I'm just going to look towards tomorrow, go for it in the race and we'll see what happens."
Fanali - Crew Chief - Anthony West
"We've found a good combination of race tyres, and this afternoon we did some very good lap times in race trim, but when we tried the qualifying tyres, we weren't able to do a better lap. For Anthony, this is only his fifth experience of qualifiers and it's very difficult for him. But the race is tomorrow, not today. Of course, qualifying is important but tomorrow we will try to do the best race we can. Every rider, when they try a qualifying tyre for the first time, gets a big surprise because the grip level is different, you must change your riding style and you must trust in it, and that's not easy, especially for him, in only his fifth MotoGP race and with no tests. We saw in Laguna that Anthony can start from the back but fight in the race and finish well in the points, so I think he'll be able to do the same tomorrow. I think he can do very well here at Brno."