KAWASAKI CONCLUDE SUCCESSFUL PHILLIP ISLAND TEST
The Kawasaki Racing Team today concluded a successful three-day test at the Phillip Island circuit in Australia, with the three riders clocking up more than 150 laps of the 4.445km track, despite less than ideal weather conditions.
Overnight rain had left the track damp in the morning, and while the infamous Phillip Island wind was quick to dry the track out, it also lowered the track temperature significantly, which caught out test and development rider Olivier Jacque.
The former 250cc world champion had a big crash late on in the afternoon, after highsiding himself on a cold rear tyre at the right-hand Hayshed turn. Jacque was uninjured in the crash, but admitted on his return to the pit box that it was a bit of a 'scary moment'.
Marco Melandri continued to work with his new crew on the set-up of his Ninja ZX-RR today, as well as doing some long runs around the 4.455km Phillip Island circuit in support of Bridgestone's test and development programme.
The 26-year-old Italian, who completed 79 laps, made changes to the chassis and suspension settings on his Ninja ZX-RR, and declared himself happy with the results, after setting a best time of 1'31.8 at the end of the third and final day of testing.
John Hopkins also declared himself happy with the test, after lapping the Phillip Island circuit consistently during his long runs for Bridgestone today, despite having to adapt his riding style to compensate for the injuries that are still causing him some discomfort on the bike.
Hopkins will fly straight back to the United States, where he'll undergo surgery on Wednesday to remove the metal plates from his left foot, ankle and hand that have caused him so many problems this season. The 25-year-old Anglo-American will then spend four weeks recuperating from the operation, before starting a punishing fitness regime to ensure he is fighting fit ahead of Kawasaki's pre-season test programme.
The annual six-week winter test ban comes into force from 1st December, with the result that the Kawasaki Racing Team will not be able to continue their development testing programme until they return to the Phillip Island circuit in January 2009. However, the data collected during these three days at the Australian circuit will allow Kawasaki's engineers in Japan to continue the development of the 2009 Ninja ZX-RR throughout the test ban period.
John Hopkins - #21 - 50 Laps - Best Lap 1'32.1
"Today was more positive for me. The injuries weren't such a big problem, although I had to adapt my riding style because I still can't put any pressure on the left footpeg. We found a pretty good set-up on the bike and my lap times were pretty consistent over the long runs we did for Bridgestone, and it's this consistency that's important to our development programme right now. It's been good working with Marco; we work well together and I'm sure we'll be pushing each other all the way once we start testing and racing again next year. Now I'm off straight back to America, where I'll have surgery on Wednesday to remove all the metal from my various injuries. As well as taking the plates out of my left foot and ankle, Doctor Ting will also remove the plate I've had in my left hand for the past three years. I'll be about two kilograms lighter! My plan is to take it easy after the surgery, to make sure I'm fully recovered, and then train my butt off ready for the new season."
Olivier Jacque - #19 - 24 Laps - Best Lap 1'32.3
"These three days at Phillip Island have been positive, because we now know how much work we need to do to improve the bike before we return here to continue testing in the New Year. We tried a slightly different engine today, which had some positive points, but we're still struggling a little bit with the front-end feeling. Marco did make some progress with this issue after trying a different set-up on his bike, and I'll test the same set-up when we return to Phillip Island in January. I had a big crash late on in the day after the rear came round on me through the right-hander at Hayshed. It takes some time to warm up the right-hand side of the tyre here, and although I'd been really careful up to this point, I must have just given it a bit too much gas on cold tarmac and down I went. It was a big impact, but apart from a few bruises, I walked away uninjured. It was scary though! We leave here knowing what we have to do to close the gap on the leading riders and teams, and I hope when we return early next year we'll see a significant improvement in both bike and lap times."
Bartholemy - Kawasaki Competition Manager
"These three days have been pretty successful, as we leave Phillip Island having given our engineers in Japan a clear direction in which to drive the development of Kawasaki's 2009 Ninja ZX-RR. All three riders have worked hard this week, and we've seem some positive results, but we're under no illusions about how much work there is to do between now and next year if we are to be competitive from the start next season. We hope to return to Phillip Island to confirm any changes made to the bike as a result of this week's test, as this will provide a good reference point for future improvements, but we won't be able to confirm any test dates until the Grand Prix commission has ratified the new sporting regulations in December."