KAWASAKI CONFIDENT AFTER FLYING START AT ASSEN Today saw the start of the ninth MotoGP round of the season at the A-Style Dutch TT Assen, in the Netherlands. After the first two free practice sessions, Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet and Anthony West...
KAWASAKI CONFIDENT AFTER FLYING START AT ASSEN
Today saw the start of the ninth MotoGP round of the season at the A-Style Dutch TT Assen, in the Netherlands. After the first two free practice sessions, Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet and Anthony West lie second and 18th on combined times, respectively.
Despite threatening clouds overhead, both sessions remained dry and de Puniet used his time constructively, with him and his team aiming to find a good set up and tyre choice, ready for Saturday's race. Happy with the results, he also managed to head the time sheets for the vast majority of the second session, until Casey Stoner just beat his time by a minuscule 0.212 seconds with just eight minutes to go.
Feeling happy and relaxed, the 26-year-old Frenchman, competing in his second year at premier class level, is looking more and more impressive on his 800cc Ninja ZX-RR, shod with Bridgestone tyres. Having now recovered from recent injuries it seems, perhaps, that now is the time for him to shine and the first statistic he'll be aiming to better will be the 11th place grid position he achieved here last year.
West was also running well and was increasingly happy with his bike's set up until an unfortunate lowside at the second gear, 140 km/h Ruskenhoek corner. Hugely disappointed after the crash, the young Australian, for whom Assen is only his second outing on a four-stroke MotoGP machine, made it back to the pits to continue on his second bike.
Nonetheless, he and his mechanics had not wasted time, having succeeded in making good progress, finding a healthy set up for the ZX-RR. Furthermore, the day's riding meant plenty more valuable practice for Anthony, who won at Assen on a 250cc in the 2003 world championship.
Large crowds are traditional at Assen and this weekend is sure to be no exception. Even with patchy weather forecast, it's unlikely anything will detract from the spectacle of the MotoGP machines tearing around the 4.555km track: a favourite of many of the riders. Kawasaki are feeling optimistic, both for the race and, prior to that, tomorrow afternoon's qualifying session.
Randy De Puniet #14 -- 2nd -- Best Lap 1'38.040
"I'm very happy. This afternoon, we made some improvements to the front and rear suspension, plus worked on our tyre choices for the race, and it all worked very well. The bike felt right, I managed good lap times and I'm in second behind the leader of the championship. I know he beat me, even though I was at the front for most of the practice session, but it was more important today for me to find a good set up and I have. It's really positive and I feel like we're moving in the right direction."
Anthony West #13 -- 18th -- Best Lap 1'39.751
"I was feeling good until I crashed; everything felt right and the changes we'd made this morning were working really well. It was strange because I was already in the corner, just ready to open the gas, but then I lost the front and went down. I don't know why: perhaps the tyre wasn't warm enough as I'd only done one lap on it. Maybe I need to warm them up a bit more on the left hand side. So yeah, obviously I'm not very happy but at least the set up we found was good."
Kawasaki Technical Manager
"I thought the session was quite promising, yes. Anthony's crash was unfortunate but Randy went well, with steady lap times. I think it's only now that he's recovered from his crash at Le Mans that we can see what the bike can do. Also, the Kawasaki seems well suited to this circuit: last year we had a good race with Nakano and things seem to be similar now. I'm feeling optimistic for qualifying tomorrow."