NINJAS READY TO POUNCE AT THE SACHSENRING
This weekend sees Germany's Sachsenring hosting the 10th round of the 2007 MotoGP world championship and the Kawasaki Racing Team are heading to the circuit with high expectations of a great race.
Riders Randy de Puniet and Anthony West are aiming to boost their season campaign on their 800cc Ninja ZX-RRs after a round of mixed blessings at the Dutch Assen TT nearly a fortnight ago. De Puniet, having laid claim to a brilliant front row grid position in qualifying, crashed out of the race itself but West showed he's a force to be reckoned with after taking ninth place in only his second MotoGP outing for Kawasaki.
The Sachsenring, near the town of Chemnitz in Eastern Germany, is a particularly twisty circuit, where the tarmac snakes through 10 left turns and just four rights, making the correct set up and tyre choice absolutely imperative. Both Kawasakis run Bridgestone tyres, which have more than proved their worth so far this season: a promising sign for the team.
Furthermore, both de Puniet and West have enjoyed numerous top 10 finishes at the circuit in their 250cc days: with four and six respectively. Such experience at the track is a major plus point: its undulations and numerous, tricky corners mean there's little room for overtakes and it'll be the Ninjas' low-down and midrange grunt that will come to the fore for this race, rather than their already-proven, and very substantial, top end.
De Puniet, after last year's disappointment when a mechanical failure forced him out of the German round, will be aiming to continue his recent good form (disregarding the hiccup at Assen) which has seen him getting increasingly impressive results including a fifth at Catalunya and a sixth, two weeks later, at Donington. Team newcomer West, meanwhile, aims to improve at every round, which, until now, he's done. It means that, to keep himself smiling, he has to beat his own best position so far of ninth.
Sunday's 30-lap Alice Motorrad Grand Prix will no doubt be a belter but the weekend kicks off with the first free practice sessions this Friday.
De Puniet: Kawasaki MotoGP Pilot #14
"After four races in six weeks, we all needed a break but now I'm looking forward to the German GP. We really showed improvement in the last couple of races so I was disappointed about not finishing the Dutch TT. The bike was working perfectly, and we were highly competitive, but now that's in the past and Sachsenring is going to be another story. My knee is still a bit swollen but last week I started running and cycling again. And my shoulder is improving although I still can't lift much weight with it. It will be ok in about a month but, even though Sachsenring can be a demanding track, I'm sure I'll deal with it. Last year, we had mechanical problems at the race and I couldn't finish but, until then, we were doing fine. This year, apart from being a great-handling bike, which is important for the twisty bits, the Ninja has a powerful engine, which is important for the last part as there are very few overtaking points. Obviously, my aim is to be on the front row and get the best result on Sunday but the priority is to finish the race. I will try my best as it is important for me, for the team and for the championship."
West: Kawasaki MotoGP Pilot #13
"I needed a break as the last few weeks have been pretty busy but I still had to wait a little after Assen before relaxing. On the Monday after the race I did a physical test to assess my condition and, even though it can be improved, the result was positive. Then I went back to Austria and had some rest. It was strange, not having much to do, but now it's back into action! I liked the Sachsenring on the 250cc bike as it's not particularly fast. It's going to be more difficult with the bigger bikes, though. It's narrow and short and it will be important to find a good set up to avoid ruining the rear tyre, especially on the left side as there are ten left hand corners out of 14 in all. Still, as I learned at Assen, you also need to warm up the right side properly too, so you don't end up on the ground! This weekend, the target is to keep improving. I guess that means to finish eighth… I know it's going to be difficult but I'll just try to get the most out of every session. After that, we will see what happens in the race."