Anthony West and Randy de Puniet were left disappointed with their final grid positions for tomorrow's Portuguese Grand Prix, after both Kawasaki riders struggled to find their form during this afternoon's qualifying session at Estoril. The ...
Anthony West and Randy de Puniet were left disappointed with their final grid positions for tomorrow's Portuguese Grand Prix, after both Kawasaki riders struggled to find their form during this afternoon's qualifying session at Estoril.
The chatter problems that had plagued West throughout free practice yesterday were all but eliminated with a change of set-up on his Ninja ZX-RR ahead of this morning's hour-long practice period. But with only two hours remaining in which to refine the rest of the set-up, the 26-year-old Australian knew he was facing a tough task.
West was then forced to switch to his number two machine early on in this afternoon's qualifying session, after a minor mechanical problem sidelined his preferred bike. Despite this setback, the Kawasaki pilot attacked as hard as he dared on his qualifying tyres, eventually qualifying 16th fastest and securing a sixth row start for tomorrow's 28-lap race.
West's team leader, de Puniet, also suffered problems during qualifying today. After finding a good set-up on his Ninja ZX-RR during free practice yesterday, the 26-year-old Frenchman looked all set to secure a top ten start during qualifying this afternoon, until a crash with just five minutes of the session remaining brought his second flying lap to a premature conclusion.
Racing back to the pit box and jumping on his number two bike, de Puniet headed out on his final qualifying tyre, but was unable to improve on his previous best lap time after struggling to regain his rhythm. As a result, the Frenchman will start tomorrow's race from 18th position, and the sixth row of the grid.
Having arrived in Estoril with high expectations, West and de Puniet were both disappointed with today's performance. However, both riders are confident that the outright speed shown by Kawasaki's Ninja ZX-RR during the two days of practice so far will allow then to fight their way through the field with minimum risk, by using this speed advantage to overtake on Estoril's 900 metre long main straight.
Anthony West: #13 - 16th - Best Lap 1'37.885
"It's been tricky today to do consistent lap times but I'm pretty pleased with the speed of the bike, it's really fast on the straights and I think if I'm battling with someone in the race I should be able to pass them just on the power. The bike's been getting better all weekend and much of the chatter I encountered yesterday has gone: it's smoother and easier to ride so I'm getting faster with each outing, but we just ran out of time today. Normally the bike is really easy to flick through the turns, but for some reason it feels a bit twitchy at this track during fast changes of direction, but I'm sure we can deal with that. Tomorrow, I'm just going to try and do my best and be as consistent as possible in the race."
Randy de Puniet: #14 - 18th - Best Lap 1'38.271
"We've done some good lap times today on race tyres while evaluating lots of different settings as well as some alternative tyre compounds. Unfortunately, with the first set of qualifiers there were a couple of riders on the racing line and I got held up. With the second set, I crashed when I lost the front at turn four: a very tight left-hander. After that, I restarted with my spare bike but the feeling wasn't so good so I didn't improve my lap time. I'm not happy about my qualifying position but all the experimenting we've done has been very helpful and we can work with the information we've collected to ensure we can make up time tomorrow."
Naoya Kaneko: Kawasaki Technical Manager
"The positions we have on the grid are not what we were expecting ahead of this weekend, but we've had some issues with the circuit, which is one of the most technical on the calendar. We've really managed to improve over the last couple of days but have, unfortunately, run out of track time to find that last few, all-important, per cent. However, if you look at the lap times on race tyres overall, we're not so far off, and although it's going to be difficult for Anthony and Randy to make up ground from where they are on the grid, and it's not an easy track on which to pass, they're both racers and I'm confident they'll finish higher than they've qualified in the race tomorrow."