The Portuguese Grand Prix proved a difficult event for Kawasaki's Anthony West and Randy de Puniet today, after a weekend of mixed fortunes for the squad.
West, starting from 16th on the grid, got off to a spectacular start, crossing the line in tenth at the end of lap one and going up to ninth by lap two. Soon after, however, the Australian lost momentum after losing confidence in the front grip and began to slide back down the field, eventually finishing the race in 12th position.
West's feedback, together with input from test and development rider, Olivier Jacque who watched the race from trackside, will be used by West, his crew and Kawasaki's engineers as they work together to improve the Australian's performance over the next four races.
"We have a good engine, which allows us to maintain good contact with other riders down the straights, but when tyres start to wear, it's difficult for Randy and Anthony to maintain their lines," explained Jacque. "This means we must work with our chassis and the electronics on the bikes, so that the riders don't have to push the rear so much, which increases tyre wear and causes the bike to start sliding. It's very helpful for us all to work together on this project and I've no doubt we are progressing all the time. It's just been a difficult weekend. "
The day started well for West's team leader, de Puniet, when he raced around the 4.182km circuit at speeds of up to 314.754kmh during the morning warm up, finishing the session in second place, just 0.225 seconds behind current championship leader, Casey Stoner. However, a rare mechanical problem took him out of the race on lap 20: a huge disappointment for the fast Frenchman after early promise had seen him steadily make his way through the pack.
The feeling in the team is understandably low but, with considerable and well-founded faith in both the Ninja ZX-RR and Bridgestone tyres, they look forward to the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi next week, when wild card rider, Akira Yanagawa, will join de Puniet and West for the 15th round of the championship.
Anthony West: 12th Position "I felt really, really good in the first few laps and the bike felt right: everything worked together and made me feel I could pass everyone in front of me. I kept making up places but all of a sudden I had problems with some sliding at the front. There were a number of times I felt uneasy, so I changed my riding style a bit to push the rear some more, but that wasn't very helpful and caused some spinning. I've struggled here all weekend but I'm looking forward to Motegi and I'm sure we can iron out these issues."
Randy de Puniet: DNF "My race was going well but then, on about lap 14, I started to have some problems accessing the low down and midrange power. I carried on for a few more laps because I was riding faster than the others in my group and was sure it was possible to finish at the front of it. I'm very disappointed because after some difficult times during practice, things were looking okay."
Michael Bartholemy: Kawasaki Competition Manager "This hasn't been the best weekend, I must admit, and I'm particularly disappointed for Randy. It's hard to understand why these technical problems occur, especially when we've been so reliable over the course of the season, but we will work through it. And it was a difficult race for Anthony: his lap times weren't as consistent as we've come to expect from him but again, when we sort out the problems he's having, he will be up there, too. His performance in the earlier part of the season shows what he's capable of. I'm looking forward to Motegi next week, the home race for our manufacturer, where hopefully we'll repeat the success we had at Laguna Seca, the last time we had three bikes on the grid."