French GP: Kawasaki race report

BAD LUCK DOGS KAWASAKI AT LE MANS Despite a strong start to today's French Grand Prix at Le Mans, Kawasaki's John Hopkins saw any chance of a top five finish disappear just after the halfway point in the race, when the chain on his Ninja ZX-RR...

BAD LUCK DOGS KAWASAKI AT LE MANS

Despite a strong start to today's French Grand Prix at Le Mans, Kawasaki's John Hopkins saw any chance of a top five finish disappear just after the halfway point in the race, when the chain on his Ninja ZX-RR snapped without warning.

The 24-year-old Anglo-American had fought his way through into seventh place during the early stages of the race and was closing rapidly on the battle for fifth when the incident occurred. It was a bitterly disappointed Hopkins who was forced to park the chainless bike against the Armco barrier and walk back to the paddock.

It is the first time that such a failure has occurred, despite many miles of testing and racing. Kawasaki's race engineers will now return with the chain to Japan, where they will work with the manufacturer to identify exactly what caused the chain to fail under race conditions.

With Hopkins out of the race, it was left to Anthony West to carry the flag for Kawasaki, but the 26-year-old Australian had his own problems to contend with. From the start of the 28-lap race, West was struggling with a severe lack of rear grip that saw his Ninja ZX-RR spinning up on the gas out of every turn.

In characteristic style, West refused to be defeated by the problem, and his dogged determination saw him eventually finish in 14th position, for which he was rewarded with two valuable championship points.

It was a frustrated West that returned to the Kawasaki pit box to demand answers from his crew, who were quick to identify the cause as a problem with the set-up of his Ninja ZX-RR.

Both Kawasaki riders leave Le Mans disappointed, but determined to make amends in the next race at Mugello, which takes place in just two weeks time.

Antony West - 13 - 14th Position

"I am not happy at all. This weekend has been a struggle, because we've had the same rear traction problems that we've experienced at every track since the start of the season. But then, in the race, the rear grip was non-existent; the bike was spinning up if I even thought about opening the throttle. I knew straight away that something was wrong, but short of coming in for a change of tyre and kissing any chance of a points scoring finish goodbye, there was nothing I could do. In the end, I just did what I could to ride round the problem, but I don't think I've ever been as happy to see the chequered flag as I was today. Now I want to know what the problem was, and I want to be sure that we don't have the same problem again."

John Hopkins - #21 - DNF

"After practice and qualifying I really thought we could come away from Le Mans with a good result, which makes today even more frustrating. I got a pretty good start, and was then able to make up places by passing on the brakes, but there are still a number of areas where we're losing out, on acceleration out of the turns for example, and this makes it difficult to make a pass stick. It's no fun holding off someone like Lorenzo for a whole lap, only to see him motor past you as soon as you get onto the straight. We need to work on these areas, starting with tomorrow's test, and we need to make some improvements if we're to increase our competitiveness. As for the chain, I guess that was just bad luck. Now we need to find out why it failed, so we can avoid the same problem in the future. Finally, I'd like to apologise to Loris for the pass I put on him, which was a little bit hard. Sorry Loris!"

Batholemy - Kawasaki Competition Manager

"It has been a frustrating weekend for everyone, but we can't allow our heads to drop as a result of the problems we faced today. John started well, and was closing on the battle for fifth place when his chain snapped, putting him out of the race. Obviously, we need to identify what caused the failure so that we can avoid the same problem in the future. To Anthony I'd like to apologise, because the difficulties he experienced today were due to a miscalculation on the part of the team. He showed true determination this afternoon by riding around the problem to finish the race, and for that he should be commended. Some very important lessons have been learnt this weekend, and while it may have been a painful learning process, this experience will only make us stronger as a team. Now we need to focus on Mugello, where we must realise the full potential of our riders and our Ninja ZX-RR."

-credit: krt

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Series MotoGP
Drivers John Hopkins , Anthony West