BATTLING THE ELEMENTS AT ESTORIL Typically unpredictable Atlantic coast weather greeted the protagonists of the MotoGP World Championship today at Estoril. After heavy rain on Thursday night, the 18-strong field headed out for the first ...
BATTLING THE ELEMENTS AT ESTORIL
Typically unpredictable Atlantic coast weather greeted the protagonists of the MotoGP World Championship today at Estoril. After heavy rain on Thursday night, the 18-strong field headed out for the first practice session of the weekend on a damp track.
Kawasaki Racing Team riders, John Hopkins and Anthony West, were on great form during the morning session, both riding with a wet set up. West rode to fourth fastest on the timesheets on the last of his 20 laps, putting in a time of 1'48.873, under a second off leading man, Casey Stoner.
Hopkins, just behind his team mate, came in fifth and headed the field on highest speed when he got his Ninja ZX-RR up to an eye-watering 307.601kmh. Somewhat heroic, given the conditions.
By the afternoon session, the surface of the 4.182km, Portuguese circuit was dry but high winds were a problem. However, lap times soon plummeted and both Kawasaki riders remained on promising form.
Hopkins put in two fastest laps, putting him on provisional pole twice during the first half of the session, and the Anglo-American ended the practice with a best time of 1'39.474, putting him tenth fastest and less than a second off speediest man of the day, Dani Pedrosa.
West took over seven seconds off his earlier time, ending the day with a best lap of 1'41.572, just short of Marco Melandri's time and ahead of the Ducatis of Sylvain Guintoli and Toni Elias.
The ZX-RR began to show off its real abilities in the dry too, with Hopkins posting 314.5kmh and West, 313.5kmh: putting them among the quickest in the field. However, with further changeable weather forecast for the weekend, it may be the times from the morning, which have more relevance for the final outcome of the event…
Either way, the Kawasaki squad has busied itself during the course of the day, trying a new chassis and various settings to add to their hoard of data; so it was a constructive start to the Portuguese round.
The team now looks ahead to tomorrow afternoon's qualifying session prior to the race itself, which is scheduled for 13:00 hours, local time, on Sunday.
Hopkins: #21: 10th - 23 Laps - 1'39.474
"This morning the conditions were poor and it was incredibly windy, so we used the session to check our wet set-up, which went well. We found a good setting at the Jerez post-race test last week, which offered more machine stability and rear grip, so the dry track time this afternoon was used to improve on that. We also had a new chassis to try and this made the bike feel easier to ride, resulting in our times being quite consistent. Overnight, we will analyse the data collected today to build on the work we've done with the new chassis. I like it here: it's a late, hard-braking circuit and it's vital we qualify on the first two rows because it's quite difficult to make passes. I'm aiming for a top five grid position, which I think we should be able to achieve."
West: #13: 16th - 25 Laps - 1'41.572
"It's certainly quite difficult here as the track conditions really aren't ideal. This morning we used our wet setting, which I felt quite comfortable with. In the later session the track was slippery in some places but dry in others. With that and the wind, it was difficult to make any real progress with the new chassis we were using, as I couldn't feel how much the wind was affecting the machine stability. Estoril isn't a track I go particularly well at, so we have a lot of work to do here. I hope that tomorrow we can have either wet or dry conditions, not a combination of both, so we can make steps forward in set-up."
Kaneko: Kawasaki Technical Manager [kaneko.jpg]
"This morning we checked our machine settings in wet conditions and both riders went well, so I am confident that we have a good wet set-up. In the afternoon, the track was dry but the times of all the riders were quite a lot slower than last year, due to overall conditions. This means it's been quite difficult to make any comparisons to the data we already have. Both riders had different chassis specifications to try today and we have been testing these with various settings. The feedback from John and Anthony is positive, although it's hard to come to any conclusions as the wind around the circuit makes it difficult for the riders to trace the same line on every lap. I hope the conditions are better tomorrow so that we can gain a clearer view of how the machines are performing, as well as collecting data to improve our set-up further."