KAWASAKI CONTINUES GOOD WORK DESPITE RAIN AT THE ISLAND
Work continued in Australia today with the second of three days development testing for the Kawasaki Racing Team, which brought positive results, despite mixed weather conditions at the Phillip Island circuit.
Kawasaki’s regular MotoGP pilots John Hopkins and Marco Melandri, who are joined by test and development rider, Olivier Jacque, were forced to halt their test sessions today due to brief rain showers. However, all three riders continued to make further improvements to their race machines and improved their lap times from the opening day of the test.
Melandri, who continued his familiarisation with the Ninja ZX-RR during yesterday, evaluated the revised chassis previously tested by Olivier Jacque in today’s session. The 26-year-old Italian completed 64 laps of the 4.445km circuit and significantly reduced his lap time from yesterday by nearly a second to 1’31.8s, despite crashing without injury at turn four late on in the afternoon.
Melandri’s crew will rebuild his machine ready for the final day of testing tomorrow when it is hoped dry weather will allow the Italian rider to continue development and make further refinements in set-up to suit his riding style. Hopkins continued to suffer from pain caused by the aggravation from the plate in his ankle, which fixed a fracture sustained during a high-speed crash at Assen back in June. The 25-year-old Anglo-American has found it difficult to put pressure onto the footpegs of his Ninja ZX-RR during acceleration out of the turns and has used extensive strapping on his ankle during his 51 laps around the Phillip Island circuit today.
With the hindrance of his injury, Hopkins has worked through the pain to evaluate tyres for Bridgestone, using the same specification machine he signed off the 2008 season with at Valencia last month. The Kawasaki pilot posted a best time of 1:32.5s, although the focus was very much on tyre development rather than a fast lap time.
With more rest overnight Hopkins and his crew hope to conclude the test tomorrow with the collection of more much needed data for the winter development of the Ninja ZX-RR ahead of the test ban, which comes into force on December 1st. Jacque followed on from yesterday to continue his evaluation of the new chassis, which features revised geometry, during today’s test session. The 35-year-old former world champion completed 37 laps of the Phillip Island circuit and improved his lap time by three tenths of a second to end the day with a best time of 1:32.1s. Jacque will conclude the three-day test tomorrow with more evaluations of development parts for the 2009 Ninja ZX-RR, which is due to make its track debut at Sepang in February. #21 John Hopkins- 51 Laps – Best Lap 1’32.5
“I am suffering quite badly with the pain from my ankle, as I just can’t put weight on the pegs when accelerating out of the turns. We’ve done a lot of icing and strapping, but it’s still very painful to ride. This test is important for us, and today we’ve spent a lot of time testing tyres using the same set-up we had in Valencia, as this gives us a reference point. We’re not chasing lap times at the minute, particularly with having an injury, but we’ve definitely found some interesting results and gathered the all-important data we need. Hopefully with a bit more rest we can get out on track tomorrow for the last time this year to conclude our test with plenty of laps under our belt.”
#19 Olivier Jacque- 37 Laps – Best Lap 1’31.8
“With the rain today we’ve not been able to complete as many laps as we’d hoped. We’ve also not really improved our lap time as much as we would have liked, but we have tried many different set-up changes, with a focus on the chassis geometry. The wind was also a big problem today as it was very strong and changed direction from morning to afternoon. I’m not sure how much this affects our bike in terms of set-up, but it was very noticeable out on track. We have some more ideas to try tomorrow, but we still have a lot of work to do if we want to achieve the lap times we are aiming for.”
Kawasaki Competition Manager Michael Bartholemy
“Unfortunately the weather hasn’t been ideal today and we had to stop the test twice due to rain. Marco tested the new chassis and he has continued to improve his lap time, despite crashing this afternoon. His crew will rebuild the bike overnight and hopefully, with some good weather, we can continue to gather more information from him tomorrow. John is definitely struggling a little with his injury, but this test is very important for him and the team for our machine development. Hopefully with some rest overnight he can continue tomorrow because we need as much information from him as possible. I think we are coming closer to where we need to be, and the rider comments are all very similar, which is positive in terms of development, as we know where we need to concentrate our efforts. We are aware we won’t find a big solution in these three days, but from this test we have a better idea of strategy for our winter development programme ready for next season.”