26 Jun 2007 UPBEAT KAWASAKI LOOKING FORWARD TO ASSEN
After an exciting round at the UK's Donington Park, the Kawasaki Racing Team is heading to Assen in optimistic mood. With Randy de Puniet taking sixth position after a strong, consistent ride, and newcomer Anthony West scoring valuable points in what was his debut MotoGP race, things are looking good for Kawasaki's factory MotoGP squad this weekend.
They will be hoping to replicate the success they had last year when erstwhile team member, Shinya Nakano, took his Kawasaki over the line in second place at the famous Dutch circuit, securing a fantastic podium spot for the squad.
De Puniet has been putting in increasingly solid and steady rides of late, making good progress on the Bridgestone-shod, 800cc Ninja ZX-RR. The Assen race represents the half way stage of the season and he's already scored more championship points than he achieved in 2006. He'll be aiming to add to those this Saturday.
For West, meanwhile, the British MotoGP brought with it the chance to ride for a factory team in the premier class for the first time and he did well to secure an 11th position finish, despite coming off early in the race. A steep learning curve looms large over the 25-year-old Australian but he's taking it all in his stride. With five previous top ten finishes at Assen in the 250cc world championship, including a win there in 2003, Anthony's looking forward to familiarising himself further with the new bike at what is one of his favourite tracks.
The 4.555km/2.84 mile Circuit Van Drenthe is a favourite of riders and spectators alike, drawing race fans from all over Europe. With the A-Style Dutch TT Assen traditionally being run on a Saturday, practice sessions will begin on Thursday with qualifying on Friday afternoon.
Anthony West: Kawasaki MotoGP Pilot #13
"I like Assen and have good memories of it as I won my first GP race there in 2003, riding a 250cc. It used to be really fast and flowing but the first part was changed and lost some of its appeal. The last part, the nicest bit, remains the same though. There are some corners you can go in to really hard and I'm really looking forward to riding the Ninja ZX-RR round there. I'd like to go and be fast but there's still so much to learn and I need more time. The aim is just to do the same good job we did at Donington: improving session after session, one step at a time. I'm still getting used to the whole thing, and it's going to take a while yet, but I'm having a lot of fun at the moment and it's all good!"
Randy de Puniet: Kawasaki MotoGP Pilot #14
"We haven't digested Donington yet but here we are, already in the Netherlands for the Dutch TT! Since Barcelona, we've been going well and I hope to continue this trend at Assen. Until they made all the changes, it was my favourite circuit of the whole championship but, even though I still like it, it has lost most of its magic. The first section used to be quite fun but now it's just too slow. Last year, the Ninja worked quite well and it seemed to be a favourable track for Kawasaki, as Shinya's podium proved. I was just unlucky: I had a problem with the front tyre during the warm up lap and had to start the race from the pits. I'm still not fully recovered from my shoulder and knee injuries but they're getting better every day. We've already shown we can finish in the top eight and that's the target this weekend, too."
Naoya Kaneko: Kawasaki Technical Manager
"The result achieved at Donington meant both our riders finishing within the points and, for the next race at Assen, we just want to continue the same way. The weather forecast is still uncertain but we're feeling confident, as we showed we're able to find a good set up either for wet or dry conditions, and we will try to use our experiences at Donington to keep improving it. We're now in a busy period, having had four races in five weeks, which has meant we've had no time to test but we've managed to do a lot of positive work with the set up. Last year we got a very good result with Shinya but until Thursday, we won't now how well-suited to Assen the 800cc Ninja ZX-RR and the Bridgestone tyres are. However, we have plenty of reasons to face the race with confidence."
28 Jun 2007 KAWASAKI CONFIDENT AFTER FLYING START AT ASSEN
Today saw the start of the ninth MotoGP round of the season at the A-Style Dutch TT Assen, in the Netherlands. After the first two free practice sessions, Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet and Anthony West lie second and 18th on combined times, respectively.
Despite threatening clouds overhead, both sessions remained dry and de Puniet used his time constructively, with him and his team aiming to find a good set up and tyre choice, ready for Saturday's race. Happy with the results, he also managed to head the time sheets for the vast majority of the second session, until Casey Stoner just beat his time by a minuscule 0.212 seconds with just eight minutes to go.
Feeling happy and relaxed, the 26-year-old Frenchman, competing in his second year at premier class level, is looking more and more impressive on his 800cc Ninja ZX-RR, shod with Bridgestone tyres. Having now recovered from recent injuries it seems, perhaps, that now is the time for him to shine and the first statistic he'll be aiming to better will be the 11th place grid position he achieved here last year.
West was also running well and was increasingly happy with his bike's set up until an unfortunate lowside at the second gear, 140 km/h Ruskenhoek corner. Hugely disappointed after the crash, the young Australian, for whom Assen is only his second outing on a four-stroke MotoGP machine, made it back to the pits to continue on his second bike.
Nonetheless, he and his mechanics had not wasted time, having succeeded in making good progress, finding a healthy set up for the ZX-RR. Furthermore, the day's riding meant plenty more valuable practice for Anthony, who won at Assen on a 250cc in the 2003 world championship.
Large crowds are traditional at Assen and this weekend is sure to be no exception. Even with patchy weather forecast, it's unlikely anything will detract from the spectacle of the MotoGP machines tearing around the 4.555km track: a favourite of many of the riders. Kawasaki are feeling optimistic, both for the race and, prior to that, tomorrow afternoon's qualifying session.
Randy de Puniet: #14 – 2nd – Best Lap 1'38.040
"I'm very happy. This afternoon, we made some improvements to the front and rear suspension, plus worked on our tyre choices for the race, and it all worked very well. The bike felt right, I managed good lap times and I'm in second behind the leader of the championship. I know he beat me, even though I was at the front for most of the practice session, but it was more important today for me to find a good set up and I have. It's really positive and I feel like we're moving in the right direction."
Anthony West: #13 – 18th – Best Lap 1'39.751
"I was feeling good until I crashed; everything felt right and the changes we'd made this morning were working really well. It was strange because I was already in the corner, just ready to open the gas, but then I lost the front and went down. I don't know why: perhaps the tyre wasn't warm enough as I'd only done one lap on it. Maybe I need to warm them up a bit more on the left hand side. So yeah, obviously I'm not very happy but at least the set up we found was good."
Naoya Kaneko: Kawasaki Technical Manager
"I thought the session was quite promising, yes. Anthony's crash was unfortunate but Randy went well, with steady lap times. I think it's only now that he's recovered from his crash at Le Mans that we can see what the bike can do. Also, the Kawasaki seems well suited to this circuit: last year we had a good race with Nakano and things seem to be similar now. I'm feeling optimistic for qualifying tomorrow."
1. Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati Marlboro Team 1'37.828; 2. Randy De Puniet (FRA) Kawasaki Racing Team +0.212; 3. Nicky Hayden (USA) Repsol Honda Team +0.286; 4. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Yamaha Factory Racing +0.320; 5. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda Team +0.393; 6. Makoto Tamada (JPN) Tech 3 Yamaha +0.428; 7. Colin Edwards (USA) Yamaha Factory Racing +0.513; 8. John Hopkins (USA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP +0.608; 9. Shinya Nakano (JPN) Konica Minolta Honda +0.616; 10. Alex Barros (BRA) Pramac d'Antin Ducati +0.657; 18. Anthony West (AUS) Kawasaki Racing Team + 1.923
29 Jun 2007 DE PUNIET ON FRONT ROW OF THE GRID AT ASSEN :crazyloco
Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet will start tomorrow's Dutch TT from the front row of the grid after a gripping finale to today's qualifying session. Team mate, Anthony West, also came well within the top ten on the time sheet and will start from the front of the third row.
After a good start to the session, which saw him easily maintaining the pace of the frontrunners, de Puniet's confidence dropped as an already wet track became precariously slippery, with rain falling ever harder on the Dutch circuit. However, perseverance with his Bridgestone tyre choice paid off as drier conditions prevailed and, on his very last run, he put in his best time of the day. The 26-year-old Frenchman's final lap of 1'49.579 took him from a discouraging 13th in the line up, to a magnificent third, just behind fellow Bridgestone runners Chris Vermeulen, on pole, and Casey Stoner.
The Kawasaki rider also claimed the honour of being the fastest man of the session, with a top speed of 275.791kmh.
De Puniet has been showing increasing consistency of late and recently celebrated his best ever finishes in MotoGP with a fifth at Catalunya and a sixth last week at Donington Park. In yesterday's practice sessions, in the dry, he finished second in the field on combined times so, considering today's wildly different conditions, he's further displayed an ever-increasing maturity on the track and talent for taking his 800cc Ninja ZX-RR forward, regardless of the environment.
In front of packed grandstands at the 4.555km Circuit van Drenthe, Anthony West continued his mission to conquer the ZX-RR, aiming to find the best set up for what is only his second race for the Kawasaki Racing Team.
Confident in the wet, the 25-year-old Australian featured strongly at the top of the initial time sheets in the session but stagnated slightly, mid pack, as he struggled to maintain the pace. However, the vigour of his early performance enabled him to remain in seventh position until just towards the end.
In a stunning display of last minute gusto, West upped his time on his last lap, claiming sixth although, in a cruel case of inter-team irony, it was de Puniet's great finish that pushed him back to seventh as the chequered flag marked the end of the hour-long qualifying session.
Just 0.116 seconds off the man in front of him, Colin Edwards, West beat many far more experienced MotoGP riders with his time of 1'49.807, including Dani Pedrosa, Loris Capirossi, Valentino Rossi and current world champion, Nicky Hayden.
Today's results represent a significant step forward for the Kawasaki squad who, as the season progresses, are showing they're a team to be reckoned with. In tomorrow's 26-lap race, they're confident they can maintain this momentum.
Randy de Puniet: #14 – 3rd - Best Lap 1'49.579
'I'm very happy and feeling a bit lucky! I found a tyre I really liked but then the weather changed for the worse and it was impossible to improve. However, I hung on, waiting for the conditions to get better and they did, just at the right moment. I thought I would be starting from the fifth row, and from there it's hard to do well in the race, so I'm really pleased. It's very important to get this third position on the grid. Today's conditions were not the best but I managed a good lap time and the bike and engine worked very well, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow.'
Anthony West: #13 – 7th - Best Lap 1'49.807
'I'm not so happy, really. I was going well at the beginning but I lost that feeling and don't believe we've managed to find a good set up. The bike didn't feel stable, it was moving around a lot and not giving me confidence, so I didn't feel I was able to ride as I'd like to in the rain. I was quite surprised the last lap was that much faster as it didn't feel it, particularly. Still, I'm ten places further up the grid than I was at Donington, so that's not too bad, and ideally I'd like to stay within the top ten tomorrow. It looks like it might be dry so this grid position will help me at the start of the race. I've still got a long way to go though, just trying to catch up.'
Christophe Bourguignon: Crew Chief - Randy de Puniet
'The rain dried up a bit after a while so we decided to try Randy on a different tyre and he really liked it. The thing is, he only got two laps out of it before it started raining heavily again, for which it wasn't suitable, so he came in. But I told him to stick with it and hope the rain would ease, which it did, so he obviously waited until the last moment and just went for it. We've found good set ups for both wet and dry so we're ready for the race tomorrow and reckon he can comfortably make the top six. I'm really happy.'
1. Chris Vermeulen (AUS) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 1'48.555; 2. Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati Marlboro Team +0.017; 3. Randy De Puniet (FRA) Kawasaki Racing Team + 1.024; 4. Marco Melandri (ITA) Honda Gresini + 1.124; 5. John Hopkins (USA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP + 1.129; 6. Colin Edwards (USA) Yamaha Factory Racing + 1.136; 7. Anthony West (AUS) Kawasaki Racing Team + 1.252; 8. Alex Hofmann (GER) Pramac d'Antin Ducati + 1.372; 9. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda Team + 1.577; 10. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Ducati Marlboro Team + 1.614
Yep, he threw it away when he bogged down on the start, even West almost overtook him into the first corner & that passing manoeuvre on Vermeulen was a bit optimistic. Then I think he pushed too hard to try to make up for the bad start. The team are wanting points, he's not delivering except the previous 2 races. By my estimation he could have been about 7th in the championship if he had managed to stay on the bike. Shame coz his performance in practice & qualifying have been excellent, especially Assen :rolleyes
West shows good promise though, fighting for a mid field place without throwing it away. Very good when this was his first dry race on an 800. If you want to be hyper-critical, he has outperformed his team mate in the races since he has been there, scoring 12 points to Randy's 10 :squint