SWOLLEN JOINTS AND SUNSHINE AS KAWASAKI HIT CATALUNYA A hot, Spanish sun shone on Kawasaki today as the Gran Premi Cinzano de Catalunya got off to a promising start for the team. Both Randy de Puniet and Olivier Jacque put in plenty of fast laps...
SWOLLEN JOINTS AND SUNSHINE AS KAWASAKI HIT CATALUNYA
A hot, Spanish sun shone on Kawasaki today as the Gran Premi Cinzano de Catalunya got off to a promising start for the team. Both Randy de Puniet and Olivier Jacque put in plenty of fast laps around the 4.727km track, near Barcelona and, by the end of practice, only 1.5 seconds separated the top 16 riders.
Randy, sporting a football-sized knee which swelled up after his crash at Mugello last weekend, notched up a total of 48 laps on his 800cc Ninja ZX-RR over the two practice sessions. On a mission to prove himself after disappointing results in France and Italy, the 26-year-old came 13th in the field, on combined times, with an overall best of 1'44.141.
He showed particular strength in T3, being the third fastest rider through that sector, behind Vermeulen and Hopkins and just ahead of Rossi. Topping out at an eye-watering 315.974 km/h, de Puniet's practice time puts him just ahead of current world champion, Nicky Hayden, on the timesheet.
Randy's fellow countryman and teammate, Olivier Jacque, managed 15th place after the combined sessions with a best time of 1'44.466, just 1.367 seconds off the pace set by leading man, Dani Pedrosa. The arm he damaged in Shanghai is improving all the time and the former 250cc world champion is feeling more optimistic than at last weekend's Italian MotoGP at which, despite struggling with pain, he succeeded in finishing.
With the circuit at Montmelo, near Barcelona, being notoriously bumpy, Kawasaki's racers and pit crews will be making careful choices of their Bridgestone tyres and further concentrating on a good suspension set up to get the most from the improved ZX-RR machines.
With the third and final practice session tomorrow morning, and qualifying in the afternoon, the Kawasaki Racing Team will be pushing to further their position in the championship, with Randy hoping for a qualifying spot higher than the 10th position he achieved on the grid last year. And with so little time separating the leading riders, the chances are high both men can show what they, and their bikes, can do.
"After the crash at Mugello, I thought my knee would be fine by now but, unfortunately, it got worse and I suffered an internal haemorrhage. The joint doubled in size and, even though it's a little better now, Spidi has had to make me a new leather suit with a knee joint 10cm wider than usual! It wasn't painful until I got on the bike but I'm sure as soon as the swelling goes down, so will the pain. I just need to rest a little now. This morning the track conditions weren't perfect, and we suffered a lack of rear grip, but we improved it after experimenting with both front and rear race tyres in the afternoon. There isn't a big time gap with respect to the guys at the front and I'm sure we can still improve tomorrow."
"Today I felt, physically, much better than in Mugello. I have almost all the arm's strength back which allows me to be more precise when I'm riding. Now I can set the bike up to race rather than trying to compensate for any handicap. This morning, we struggled with rear grip and I couldn't keep up speed in the long and fast curves. We adjusted the balance of the bike and, with better track conditions as well, it improved a lot in the afternoon. We also tried a couple of front and rear race tyres and are already pretty sure about the choice we'll make for Sunday. Maybe my position doesn't reflect it but we're on a good course."
Kaneko, Kawasaki Technical Manager
"After Randy's crash at Mugello, his knee is still unbelievably swollen but he tried really hard today to set the bike up well. Also, Olivier is still not 100%, although his forearm injury is getting better every day. At the moment, we are in 13th and 15th positions but the lap times are really close across the board, with the first 16 riders all within 1.5 seconds of each other. We need to improve the set up of the bikes and have already pinpointed a couple of areas to work on, mainly for the high-speed section. The third and last corners are really important and tomorrow we'll keep working on adjusting the balance to make the Ninja ZX-RR more effective there. And the tyre durability is really important in Montmelo as well. We aren't aiming for any particular positions for our riders but we do expect them to go step by step and do their best, as they always do."