Randy de Puniet made his first appearance as a Kawasaki MotoGP rider today at Valencia, taking advantage of a journalist test day to try for the first time the Ninja ZX-RR he'll race during the 2006 season.
The 24-year-old Frenchman took to the track late in the afternoon, in less than ideal conditions, to start what will be a steep learning curve as he works towards his race debut in the premier MotoGP class next season.
With time for only 12 laps before a drop in track temperature brought an end to today's test, de Puniet's first outing on a MotoGP bike was a short one, but it was enough for him to be impressed with the power of Kawasaki's 990cc, inline four-cylinder Ninja ZX-RR engine.
Testing for the Kawasaki Racing Team will continue at Valencia on Wednesday and Thursday, when de Puniet will be joined on track by Kawasaki's test and development rider, Olivier Jacque.
Kawasaki's lead rider, Shinya Nakano, will take no part in the Valencia test, having already flown back to Japan for further treatment on the wrist injury he sustained during a practice crash on Friday.
Nakano hopes to resume testing duties in Sepang at the end of November.
Randy de Puniet;
"I only had a short time on track today, I think 12 laps in total, but it was enough to get a good first impression of the Ninja ZX-RR. The MotoGP bike is very different to the 250cc machines I have been riding; it's heavier, of course, and it definitely has a lot more power. You notice the extra power most when exiting the turns, where good throttle control is important. I know that learning to get the most from a MotoGP bike is going to take many, many laps, but I'm looking forward to starting the process when we begin testing properly on Wednesday. Overall, my first impression is very positive, but now the hard work begins."
Harald Eckl: Team Manager;
"Today was simply an opportunity for Randy to get a feel for our Ninja ZX-RR MotoGP machine, and for his crew to sort out the simple things like footrest, lever and handlebar positions, ready for his first proper test on Wednesday and Thursday. Track conditions weren't ideal so late in the day, but even so, Randy posted a respectable time for a MotoGP first timer. What he needs now is more time on the bike, which will allow him to adapt his riding style to better suit the characteristics of a four-stroke MotoGP machine."