After a lengthy two month break the Kawasaki Racing Team returned to the racetrack at Sepang today, for the first of three days of testing in preparation for the 2005 MotoGP World Championship season.
Kawasaki riders, Shinya Nakano and Alex Hofmann, had available to them the Ninja ZX-RR machines they campaigned last season, together with the very latest version of Kawasaki's 990cc, inline four-cylinder MotoGP machine.
Both riders opted to start the test aboard the 2004 machines, to give themselves the chance to get back up to speed after such a long layoff, and to reacquaint themselves with the characteristics of the bike that took Nakano to tenth place in the 2004 MotoGP World Championship standings.
While Hofmann continued with the 2004 bike during the afternoon test session, Nakano took the opportunity to put the 2005 Ninja ZX-RR through its paces around the Sepang circuit, with favourable results.
Shinya Nakano: #56
"This morning it was a case of getting used to the bike again after the long winter break, and to meet the new members of my crew who joined the team over the winter. I started the test on the 2004 bike, but switched to the latest version of the Ninja ZX-RR for the afternoon session. This is a new bike, so we know there's a lot of work to do on set-up and getting the chassis balance right, but already I can feel an improvement over the old bike in certain areas. The old bike was a bit nervous when the rear tyre started to slide, but the 2005 machine is a lot easier to control in the slide. Tomorrow we'll continue to compare the 2004 and 2005 machines, as we work towards refining the set-up of the new bike."
Alex Hofmann: #66
"We started today aboard the 2004 bike, to give me the chance to get my brain back up to speed after such a long break. I was quite surprised at how quickly I felt comfortable on the bike again, and it didn't take long for me to start racking up some reasonable lap times. This afternoon we tested a new swinging arm on the 2004 bike, for comparison purposes, as well as testing some new rear tyres from Bridgestone. Tomorrow we'll switch to the 2005 version of the ZX-RR and I'm looking forward to finding out how much of an improvement the new bike is, and where the improvements have been made."
Naoya Kaneko: Technical Coordinator
"We have both the 2004 and 2005 versions of the Ninja ZX-RR with us at this test, but both riders started today aboard the old bikes. This gave them the chance to get back into the swing of things after such a long break. While Alex spent most of the day on the 2004 bike, Shinya opted to try the latest version of the ZX-RR during the afternoon session, with promising results. Tomorrow both riders will run comparison tests between the new bike and the old, as we work to find the strengths of the new bike and how we can improve it further for both Shinya and Alex. Overall, I'm satisfied with the progress we've made today."