PROVISIONAL FRONT ROW FOR FLYING DE PUNIET Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet got his Valencia weekend off to a flying start today by finishing this afternoon's free practice session second fastest, as Bridgestone riders filled all three of the top...
PROVISIONAL FRONT ROW FOR FLYING DE PUNIET
Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet got his Valencia weekend off to a flying start today by finishing this afternoon's free practice session second fastest, as Bridgestone riders filled all three of the top slots on the timesheet.
The 25-year-old Kawasaki pilot was on the pace from the start this morning, quickly finding a good rhythm aboard his Ninja ZX-RR and then working together with his crew to further refine the set-up of the bike.
As the track temperature increased for the afternoon free practice session, de Puniet switched his attention to evaluating the race tyre options that Bridgestone have made available for Sunday's 30-lap Grand Prix of Valencia.
After lapping consistently in the top ten on race tyres, and less than half-a-second off the provisional pole sitter, de Puniet ended the session with a fast lap on a qualifying tyre, in preparation for tomorrow's all-important qualifying session.
The Kawasaki pilot initially took provisional pole with his fast lap, but was then ousted from the top spot right at the end of the session by Loris Capirossi, who also set his fastest lap on a qualifying tyre.
Shinya Nakano finished the opening day of practice in ninth place, after opting to stay on race tyres throughout the hour-long afternoon session in order to continue working on the set-up of his Ninja ZX-RR for Sunday's race.
The 28-year-old Japanese rider had some problems with front-end chatter throughout the practice session, but is confident that this can be dialled out with some minor changes to the suspension settings ahead of tomorrow's two track sessions.
Randy de Puniet: 2nd - 1'32.408
"Today was a good start to the final race weekend of the season. I felt comfortable on the bike straight away this morning, and this meant we were able to get on with the job of refining the set-up without having to work through any problems first. This afternoon we worked through some of the tyre options that Bridgestone have available, with very positive results. Set-up and tyre choice are critical here, as it's a long race and tyre performance will inevitably drop off by the halfway point. With this in mind, we have tried to find a good balance with the bike, and on the tyre we think we will use on Sunday my lap times were consistent, even after a long run. Qualifying high up the grid is also important, as this is a difficult track on which to pass. For this reason we tried a qualifier last thing this afternoon, and I was quite pleased with the lap time, although I still think there's more to come from the qualifying tyre tomorrow."
Shinya Nakano: 9th - 1'33.394
"We made some changes to the bike after this morning's practice session, which gave us some improvement this afternoon, but we still have some work to do on the set-up. At the moment it seems I have a small problem at each corner - in some the rear is spinning and sliding, and in others there is some front-end chatter - but I don't think we're too far off a good set-up on the bike, and I'm sure some small adjustments tonight will lead to further improvements ahead of practice and qualifying tomorrow. Our tyre situation for the race looks pretty good. We went harder and harder with the rear compound this afternoon, but I finally found a tyre that I'm happy will work well in Sunday's race. Overall, it's been a pretty positive start to the weekend."
Naoya Kaneko: Technical Manager
"Last year we had a lot of problems with the performance of the right hand side of the tyre, but Bridgestone have addressed this problem and we're in much better shape this time around. Now we need to work through some of the options with regard to the balance between right and left hand grip, and we need to make some fine adjustments to the bikes, to allow the riders to keep their lap times consistent when tyre performance starts to drop off in the race. While it is important that we finalise our race set-up tomorrow, we must also ensure that we're prepared for qualifying. It is difficult to make up places lost at the start here in Valencia, so we need to make sure that both riders qualify as close to the front of the grid as possible."