THIRD ROW START FOR KAWASAKI'S YOUNG GUN Kawasaki young gun, Randy de Puniet, will start tomorrow's opening race of the season from the third row of the grid, after qualifying his Ninja ZX-RR in eighth place for the Grand Prix of Qatar. The ...
THIRD ROW START FOR KAWASAKI'S YOUNG GUN
Kawasaki young gun, Randy de Puniet, will start tomorrow's opening race of the season from the third row of the grid, after qualifying his Ninja ZX-RR in eighth place for the Grand Prix of Qatar.
The first qualifying session of the season, during which de Puniet held provisional pole for almost 20 minutes, was a success for Kawasaki's tyre partner, Bridgestone, with six of their riders filling the top ten positions.
This morning de Puniet again focussed on race tyre evaluation, confirming his selection with a half-distance race run during the hour-long practice period. With conditions changing ahead of this afternoon's qualifying session, de Puniet reconfirmed his race tyre choice, after declaring himself satisfied with the set-up of his Ninja ZX-RR.
The 26-year-old Frenchman was one of the few riders to run three qualifying tyres this afternoon, improving his lap time with each one, on his way to qualifying eighth fastest with a time of 1'55.933s, less than one second behind today's pole sitter, Valentino Rossi.
For Olivier Jacque, today was a difficult one. The 33-year-old Frenchman struggled with a lack of both feeling and feedback from the front end of his Ninja ZX-RR during the morning practice, before eventually overcoming the problem early in this afternoon's qualifying session.
Jacque concentrated on evaluating race tyres, before fitting the first of two qualifiers in the rear of his Ninja ZX-RR with just ten minutes of the timed session remaining. The Kawasaki pilot faces a tough opening race tomorrow, as he will start from the fifth row of the grid after qualifying in 14th position this afternoon.
Although the characteristics of the Losail circuit are not well suited to Kawasaki's Ninja ZX-RR, both riders are confident of starting the season tomorrow with a points scoring finish.
Randy de Puniet: 8th - 43 Laps - Best Lap 1'55.933
"This morning we tried different tyre options and I managed a fast and consistent simulation. We confirmed it in the afternoon and we will use Bridgestone's medium option. I'm satisfied with the qualifying, as I improved my lap time with each of the three qualifying tyres used. I pushed as hard as I could; it would have been difficult to be faster. The race will depend on the start and if I do well I think I can defend my position."
Olivier Jacque: 14th - 40 Laps - Best Lap 1'56.754
"Today I began with the same set up I finished with yesterday to corroborate the improvement that I felt. But, unfortunately, it didn't work. We then worked hard on chassis balance and front suspension and finally, in the afternoon, we found a better set up. I'm not yet 100% used to the qualifiers and I lost a lot of time at the first split as I don't warm up properly the tyre. However, I went fast through the other three sectors and that made me feel good. I'm so excited and I will do my best to finish in the points tomorrow."
Ichiro Yoda: Kawasaki Racing Director "Randy's lap times improved session after session and his race simulation, even though it wasn't a whole race one, was consistent. Compared with the previous tests, he has made an important step forward and we really appreciate his effort. We expected a better position on the grid, maybe second, but this is not a bad result. Olivier improved, but didn't find the optimal setup. On Sunday, after the race, we will probably try Randy's set up with Olivier and compare. Our expectations for the race are Randy to finish among the first eight and Olivier in the top ten."