DE PUNIET AND NIETO READY FOR LE MANS SHOWDOWN Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet and stand in rider, Fonsi Nieto, will start tomorrow's French Grand Prix from the third and seventh rows of the grid, respectively. Under sunny skies and with a dry...
DE PUNIET AND NIETO READY FOR LE MANS SHOWDOWN
Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet and stand in rider, Fonsi Nieto, will start tomorrow's French Grand Prix from the third and seventh rows of the grid, respectively.
Under sunny skies and with a dry track, Randy put in an early qualifier and set the pace at Le Mans this afternoon, topping the leader board for much of the session on his 800cc Ninja ZX-RR. His best time was 1'34.318, with a mere 0.702 seconds between him and eventual pole position holder, Colin Edwards.
It was a thrilling qualifying practice, which saw an unusually wide variety of riders taking it in turns to occupy provisional pole: an indication that tomorrow's race could generate any number of surprises. De Puniet will be looking for a good result in front of his home crowd and recent improvements to the bike's set up, alongside extraordinary performance from his Bridgestone tyres, bode well for the 26-year-old Frenchman.
Meanwhile, Fonsi Nieto, who is standing in for the injured Olivier Jacque, achieved 19th position. Whilst this illustrates the Spaniard's inexperience on a MotoGP bike, he has consistently improved his lap times during the weekend so far, reflecting the effort he's putting in and the hard work of the team to develop his performance in a very short space of time.
With less than a second separating the top 12 riders, the arduous, 28-lap race at the Bugatti Circuit should prove a gripping contest tomorrow.
"We definitely improved the bike today and the adjustments made to the front and rear suspension were spot on. The bike is more stable now and that lead to a quick improvement in my lap times this morning. We tried a couple more rear tyre options today but this only served to confirm that yesterday's set-up, which I was already happy with, is the best one for tomorrow's race, if conditions remain the same. We switched to the qualifying tyres early in the afternoon session as we had four different sets to get through. The first and the second ones were fine but the third one was much better. I was so confident for the fourth set but I had a problem during my fast lap. My out lap was too slow, so the tyre wasn't warm enough when I had to push harder and I lost eight tenths in the first two splits. Then, when I got up to speed, it was too late to improve my lap time to get a better spot on the grid. Tomorrow's is going to be a close race and, more than ever, I'll need a good start to follow the leading group. I'm sure I'll be able to, though, as the bike's feeling very good indeed and the fans will be there to support me."
"Things are much better today! Yesterday I was quite nervous and spent both sessions trying to get used to the Ninja ZX-RR and the tyres. Today, I've been much more relaxed and quickly improved my lap times. As soon as I went out on track this morning I was two seconds faster and every time I got on the bike I was quicker and more confident. I'm still struggling with braking and getting the most from the tyres but I‘ve only had three hours on the bike. It would have been great to have more time to find the best set up but I'm happy with the job we've done. My first experience with the qualifying tyres has been a bit frustrating. The grip is amazing but I wasn't able to make the most of the three sets I used. With the first two, the front was pushing and vibrating a lot. I improved my times a little on the second lap out with the third set but the tyre was already worn. Anyway, we're feeling positive for the race tomorrow. My target is to finish and it would be fantastic not to have to ride the race alone, but either way, I know it will be fun."
Yoda, Kawasaki Racing Director
"Overall, we are happy with the performance of our bikes and our riders so far this weekend. Randy had some problems yesterday that his crew has been able to fix, enabling him to post faster lap times. We expect him to finish within the first eight, as in the last two races, although a better position could be possible. The bike and the race tyres are working well and he is confident, so we are confident too. We are really satisfied with the race tyres, though we are still having the same problem with the qualifiers we've been having all the season, with our riders being unable to fully exploit the extra grip. Fonsi is here as a replacement for Olivier and this is his first experience with a MotoGP bike. Considering he's had just two days to practice, we are satisfied with the job he's done. We've also been able to collect some data and get his feedback, which is very positive for our development. I hope, in the race tomorrow, he'll be able to get into a good rhythm and follow some other riders, although his only real duty is to finish."