SLIPPERY START FOR KAWASAKI IN QATAR The first weekend of the 2008 MotoGP World Championship kicked off this evening, under lights. The Qatar round is taking place at night and the premier class field took to the track at 19:00 hours and then ...
SLIPPERY START FOR KAWASAKI IN QATAR
The first weekend of the 2008 MotoGP World Championship kicked off this evening, under lights. The Qatar round is taking place at night and the premier class field took to the track at 19:00 hours and then again at 22:55 hours, local time, for the first two practice sessions.
As during the IRTA test here last week, the track temperature plummeted as soon as the sun went down ahead of the first free practice session, despite the 5.4 million watts of lighting used to illuminate the track. By the time this evening's second free practice session started the track temperature had dropped to just 14˚C, and many riders were commenting that rear grip had become difficult to predict.
This was certainly true for Kawasaki's John Hopkins, as he worked his way through a number of rear tyre options in a bid to identify a tyre that could cope with the cold conditions should they remain for Sunday's 22-lap race. The 24-year-old Anglo-American rejected a number of rear slick options, before finding a combination of tyre and suspension settings that appeared to improve both the level and the consistency of the grip.
Although disappointed not to finish higher up the timesheet on the opening day of the first round of 2008, Hopkins remains confident that tomorrow will see him move closer to tonight's leader, reigning world champion, Casey Stoner.
Anthony West, meanwhile, managed to improve his times over the course of the evening's practices and put in his best time on his final lap of the second session. It was possible for the 26-year-old Australian to have finished higher up the leaderboard but for a crash on what would have been his fastest lap of the day.
Heading into the left hand turn two, West touched the throttle to help turn the bike into the corner, at which point the rear came round on him and he went over the high side. He banged his head in the crash but is otherwise uninjured.
Both Kawasaki riders, like many of their rivals, are hoping for higher night time temperatures for tomorrow's qualifying practice and, ultimately, Sunday's race.
John Hopkins - #21: 14th -- 34 laps -- 1'57.085
"Tonight we went out on track with the aim of finding the best tyre solution and unfortunately we ran into some minor technical issues in the later session. This meant we weren't able to put together a solid run to improve our lap time. I'm disappointed with tonight's overall result, as I know that we are capable of so much more. We have to find a tyre combination with good grip to suit these chilly conditions and although we've got our work cut out, I'm confident that we'll be much higher in the standings tomorrow."
Anthony West - #13: 17th -- 33 laps -- 1'57.934
"The track is quite dusty tonight and we've found it quite difficult to make the tyres work in the cold conditions. In the first session the feeling from the machine wasn't great but we made some big improvements in the second practice and I started to feel quite confident. Rear grip is the main issue, particularly on the left side of the tyre as the track is predominantly right-handed. I was trying to make one of the tyres work harder and although I had a few warnings about loss of traction, I still got caught out and managed to suffer my first high side aboard the Kawasaki. I was chasing a better lap time and crashed at turn two, which was really frustrating. I'm ok though and I am sure we can resolve some of the issues we've had during tomorrow's sessions."
Kaneko - Kawasaki Technical Manager
"We lost a lot of time during the second session as we had a mechanical problem with John's machine. This meant we didn't get as much time out on track as we would've liked. We have had a few obstacles to overcome whilst trying to find a suitable rear tyre and our main goal has been to bring everything together to find a good package to race with. Anthony was making big improvements on his pace throughout the second session but unfortunately he crashed. The main issue is to provide the riders with better grip, which is a combination of the machine and the tyres, along with solving the shifter problem that John encountered. We will now analyse the data from tonight and make the necessary changes so we can be further up the field tomorrow."