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Nakano And Hofmann Close On Top Ten At Catalunya - March 20th 2005

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    Kawasaki Racing Team riders, Shinya Nakano and Alex Hofmann, finished 11th and 12th respectively in today's qualifying shootout at the Circuit de Catalunya.

    The shootout was the highlight of the third and final day of the IRTA test in Barcelona.

    Both Nakano and Hofmann rode Ninja ZX-RR machines fitted with development versions of Kawasaki's new big bang firing order, 990cc in-line four-cylinder motor.

    Both riders posted personal best times at the 4.7 km Barcelona circuit.

    Hofmann switched to the new big bang ZX-RR motor today as part of a strategy for the 24-year-old German to maximise track time with the new engine configuration.

    Hofmann had been scheduled to make his debut with the big bang motor at next week's IRTA test at Jerez, but was delighted to make the switch one day earlier then expected.

    The Kawasaki big bang motor only made its track debut at Sepang in February, and is still in the early stages of a long and intensive development programme.

    In the morning free practice session both riders evaluated suspension and chassis set-up, as well as continuing their test schedules with the latest Bridgestone tyres.

    Both Hofmann and Nakano have been impressed with the increased levels of side grip offered by the latest tyre compounds.

    Engine development has been the main focus of this weekend's IRTA Barcelona test and that will continue next week at Jerez, which will be the final pre-season workout for the Kawasaki Racing Team.

    It is just three weeks to the opening race of the season, the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez.

    Shinya Nakano: #56 - 11th (1'43.661)

    "I am a little disappointed. I pushed very hard to make this time and this was the maximum result that was possible today. The new big bang engine is the right direction, but it is obvious we still have more work to do, especially on corner entry stability with the engine braking system. The 2005 Ninja ZX-RR is ahead of last year's screamer motor, but everyone else is going much faster at the moment"

    Alex Hofmann: #66 - 12th (1'43.709)

    "After two and a half years of riding the Kawasaki 'screamer' motor in testing and races, I was very happy to have a new feeling under me when I switched to the big bang motor today. This concept is the way to go, making it easier and more consistent to produce fast times. It was motivating for me to make the switch today, but also obvious that our rivals have not been sleeping in terms of performance. At the moment the big bang probably lacks some top end power, but I'm sure that will come as development continues."

    Harald Eckl: Team Manager

    "Even though the big bang engine development programme is later than we had hoped for, this result shows that we've made a significant improvement in engine performance. The Ninja ZX-RR has closed the gap to the leading group and we hope to make a further step forward at the IRTA tests in Jerez next week. Overall I am happy with the progress to this point, and I'm confident there is a lot more to come from this version of the Ninja ZX-RR engine."