KAWASAKI'S DE PUNIET PICKS UP POINTS IN TOUGH JEREZ WEEKEND Randy de Puniet scored Kawasaki's only world championship points after bringing his Ninja ZX-RR home in a hard fought 13th place in today's Spanish Grand Prix, which was won by...
KAWASAKI'S DE PUNIET PICKS UP POINTS IN TOUGH JEREZ WEEKEND
Randy de Puniet scored Kawasaki's only world championship points after bringing his Ninja ZX-RR home in a hard fought 13th place in today's Spanish Grand Prix, which was won by Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) from home hero Dani Pedrosa (Honda) and watched by more than 132,000 spectators.
De Puniet's fellow countryman, and Kawasaki teammate, Olivier Jacque, was unable to add to his points haul from the opening race in Qatar, finishing in a disappointing 18th place after struggling with traction problems throughout the 27-lap race.
Kawasaki's expectations had been high coming into the second race of the season, with Racing Director, Ichiro Yoda, predicting a strong performance from his two riders, but these expectations had to be re-evaluated during the opening practice session on Friday, as de Puniet and Jacque encountered problems with their Ninja ZX-RR machines that hadn't been apparent during the IRTA test at Jerez just one month ago.
The problems persisted throughout practice and qualifying on Saturday, but de Puniet saw a distinct improvement in the handling of his Ninja ZX-RR during this morning's 25-minute warm-up session. Despite this improvement, both de Puniet and Jacque lined up for today's Spanish Grand Prix knowing that today would be an exercise in damage limitation, rather than an opportunity to push hard for a top ten finish.
Even so, if it hadn't been for some back luck then de Puniet could have potentially secured a top ten finish for Kawasaki today, but two small mistakes at mid-race distance saw him lose contact with the battle for ninth place, and he lost further time when forced to run wide after Kenny Roberts (Honda) suffered machinery problems on the racing line.
To say that Jacque was disappointed with his result today would be something of an understatement. The 33-year-old Kawasaki pilot was left frustrated after suffering with traction problems from the start of the race, which left him chasing Suzuki's test rider, Kousuke Akiyoshi, at the back of the field.
Jacque closed on to the back of Akiyoshi in the latter part of the race, but was unable to pass after using his tyres up in the chase. Only Suzuki's John Hopkins, who rejoined the race behind the Kawasaki pilot after crashing out of fourth place, spared Jacque the ignominy of finishing last.
Randy de Puniet: 13th Position
"I kept the position and at the beginning I was faster than other riders, but here it is really difficult to pass. I stayed behind, as I didn't want to make any mistake. Rear tyre performance dropped down, but I managed to stay with the group until ten laps to the end, when I made a mistake and lost some time. I pushed and caught the group again. But then, four laps to the end, I don't know what happened but I saw Roberts' bike stop and I lost about a second avoiding him, which allowed Capirossi to catch me. His bike is more powerful and I couldn't prevent him from passing me on the back straight. The positive is that the bike's performance improved a little, but we now need to find solutions to all the issues we had this weekend."
Olivier Jacque: 18th Position
"It's been a hard weekend; even though I was not expecting much from this race, it has been a bit frustrating. I did a good start, but had absolutely no grip after only three laps, which meant I was spinning the rear tyre at every single corner. I was losing a lot of ground exiting the corners and it got worse lap by lap. I made some mistakes as well, trying to catch up on braking, but it was just impossible. Slide control was really good, and I could have had fun, but it was not efficient in terms of lap time. At the end, the tyres were ruined but I managed to finish. We don't know what has gone wrong this weekend but, fortunately, we have two testing days to sort it out."
Michael Bartholemy: Kawasaki Competition Manager
"Randy showed his growing maturity by riding a risk free race to pick up his first points of the season today, despite the fact that we still need to make some improvements to our Ninja ZX-RR. But, while Randy was able to salvage some points, the same wasn't true of Olivier. We need to sit down with him and find out why he wasn't able to match Randy's lap times today. Kawasaki isn't here to finish so close to the back of the field, so if there is a problem then we need to find a solution. I'm sure it was possible to leave here with a better combined result today; yes, we've had some problems this weekend, but whether we have the perfect package or not, we're here to compete and we need to be going into every race 100% committed to securing the best result possible."