NAKANO SECURES THIRD ROW START IN DIFFICULT CONDITIONS Kawasaki's Shinya Nakano will start tomorrow's 28-lap Portuguese Grand Prix from the third row of the grid, after qualifying his Ninja ZX-RR in seventh place during this afternoon's...
NAKANO SECURES THIRD ROW START IN DIFFICULT CONDITIONS
Kawasaki's Shinya Nakano will start tomorrow's 28-lap Portuguese Grand Prix from the third row of the grid, after qualifying his Ninja ZX-RR in seventh place during this afternoon's hour-long timed session.
The 29-year-old Kawasaki rider set exactly the same lap time as Suzuki's John Hopkins, but the American retained his position on the second row of the grid, having set his fastest lap earlier in the qualifying session than Nakano.
A lack of rear grip left Randy de Puniet frustrated with his qualifying performance today, and the 25-year-old Frenchman knows that starting from sixteenth position, and the sixth row of the grid, leaves him with a lot of ground to make up in tomorrow's race.
Both Kawasaki riders reported an improvement in both traction and drive grip during this morning's final free practice session, but a major increase in track temperature ahead of this afternoon's all-important qualifying session meant that Nakano and de Puniet were forced to re-evaluate their tyre choice, as grip, once again, became difficult to find.
Although Nakano was able to identify a combination of tyre and set-up that at least allowed him to keep the leading riders in sight, de Puniet was losing time at every turn as the rear of his Ninja ZX-RR continued to spin up under acceleration.
As this afternoon's session drew to a close, Nakano took advantage of the extra grip offered by Bridgestone's qualifying tyres to close to within half-a-second of eventual pole sitter, Valentino Rossi.
While reasonably happy with his qualifying position, Nakano will try some minor changes to the set-up of his Ninja ZX-RR during morning warm-up tomorrow, in an attempt to improve further his lap time in race trim.
Tyre choice for tomorrow's race will be critical, and both Kawasaki riders will spend time with the Bridgestone tyre technicians this evening, in order to review the tyre options open to them for tomorrow's 28-lap race.
Shinya Nakano: 7th - 1'36.790
"We made some changes to the set-up of the bike this morning, but we didn't see much of an improvement to be honest. This afternoon we still had some problems with a lack of rear grip, but it was definitely more consistent and I think everyone was suffering with the same problem, as there were not many riders breaking into the 1'37 bracket on race tyres. But, still, we're looking for a couple of tenths in race trim, which we hope we can find during warm-up tomorrow. Switching to the qualifying tyre this afternoon obviously gave us more grip, and the balance of the bike felt good, so we know we have a workable set-up for the race. This evening we need to sit down with Bridgestone to consider our race tyre options for tomorrow, as tyre choice will be critical."
Randy de Puniet: 16th - 1'37.592
"This afternoon was very frustrating. This morning we suffered a mechanical problem with one of my bikes, but right at the end of the session I found a rear tyre that seemed to work well at this circuit, and I was able to improve my lap time. But the track temperature had increased considerably for this afternoon's qualifying session and, as a result, the same tyre just didn't offer the same level of grip as it did this morning. When we switched to the qualifying tyre this afternoon I made a mistake on my final flying lap and, because of this, I'm facing a start from the sixth row of the grid tomorrow. For sure, this is going to make for a difficult race, but I will just have to go out there and push as hard as I can."