DE PUNIET ON FRONT ROW OF THE GRID AT ASSEN Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet will start tomorrow's Dutch TT from the front row of the grid after a gripping finale to today's qualifying session. Team mate, Anthony West, also came well within the top...
DE PUNIET ON FRONT ROW OF THE GRID AT ASSEN
Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet will start tomorrow's Dutch TT from the front row of the grid after a gripping finale to today's qualifying session. Team mate, Anthony West, also came well within the top ten on the time sheet and will start from the front of the third row.
After a good start to the session, which saw him easily maintaining the pace of the frontrunners, de Puniet's confidence dropped as an already wet track became precariously slippery, with rain falling ever harder on the Dutch circuit. However, perseverance with his Bridgestone tyre choice paid off as drier conditions prevailed and, on his very last run, he put in his best time of the day. The 26-year-old Frenchman's final lap of 1'49.579 took him from a discouraging 13th in the line up, to a magnificent third, just behind fellow Bridgestone runners Chris Vermeulen, on pole, and Casey Stoner.
The Kawasaki rider also claimed the honour of being the fastest man of the session, with a top speed of 275.791kmh.
De Puniet has been showing increasing consistency of late and recently celebrated his best ever finishes in MotoGP with a fifth at Catalunya and a sixth last week at Donington Park. In yesterday's practice sessions, in the dry, he finished second in the field on combined times so, considering today's wildly different conditions, he's further displayed an ever-increasing maturity on the track and talent for taking his 800cc Ninja ZX-RR forward, regardless of the environment.
In front of packed grandstands at the 4.555km Circuit van Drenthe, Anthony West continued his mission to conquer the ZX-RR, aiming to find the best set up for what is only his second race for the Kawasaki Racing Team.
Confident in the wet, the 25-year-old Australian featured strongly at the top of the initial time sheets in the session but stagnated slightly, mid pack, as he struggled to maintain the pace. However, the vigour of his early performance enabled him to remain in seventh position until just towards the end.
In a stunning display of last minute gusto, West upped his time on his last lap, claiming sixth although, in a cruel case of inter-team irony, it was de Puniet's great finish that pushed him back to seventh as the chequered flag marked the end of the hour-long qualifying session.
Just 0.116 seconds off the man in front of him, Colin Edwards, West beat many far more experienced MotoGP riders with his time of 1'49.807, including Dani Pedrosa, Loris Capirossi, Valentino Rossi and current world champion, Nicky Hayden.
Today's results represent a significant step forward for the Kawasaki squad who, as the season progresses, are showing they're a team to be reckoned with. In tomorrow's 26-lap race, they're confident they can maintain this momentum.
Randy De Puniet #14 -- 3rd - Best Lap 1'49.579
"I'm very happy and feeling a bit lucky! I found a tyre I really liked but then the weather changed for the worse and it was impossible to improve. However, I hung on, waiting for the conditions to get better and they did, just at the right moment. I thought I would be starting from the fifth row, and from there it's hard to do well in the race, so I'm really pleased. It's very important to get this third position on the grid. Today's conditions were not the best but I managed a good lap time and the bike and engine worked very well, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
Anthony West #13 -- 7th - Best Lap 1'49.807
"I'm not so happy, really. I was going well at the beginning but I lost that feeling and don't believe we've managed to find a good set up. The bike didn't feel stable, it was moving around a lot and not giving me confidence, so I didn't feel I was able to ride as I'd like to in the rain. I was quite surprised the last lap was that much faster as it didn't feel it, particularly. Still, I'm ten places further up the grid than I was at Donington, so that's not too bad, and ideally I'd like to stay within the top ten tomorrow. It looks like it might be dry so this grid position will help me at the start of the race. I've still got a long way to go though, just trying to catch up."
Crew Chief for Randy de Puniet
"The rain dried up a bit after a while so we decided to try Randy on a different tyre and he really liked it. The thing is, he only got two laps out of it before it started raining heavily again, for which it wasn't suitable, so he came in. But I told him to stick with it and hope the rain would ease, which it did, so he obviously waited until the last moment and just went for it. We've found good set ups for both wet and dry so we're ready for the race tomorrow and reckon he can comfortably make the top six. I'm really happy."