With heat wave on-track temperatures soaring to 58 degrees, Kawasaki factory riders Shinya Nakano and Alex Hofmann completed a day of gruelling, but productive, testing at Sepang today.
This was day two of the opening pre-season test in advance of the 2005 MotoGP season.
Tyre testing for Kawasaki's technical partner Bridgestone was the focus of today's workout and the brutal track conditions proved ideal for that programme.
A range of new construction, shapes and compounds are being evaluated by Bridgestone and Kawasaki engineers, to obtain data that will be the basis of the 2005 race tyre options.
Both Nakano and Hofmann rode a base set-up on 2004 model 990cc, Ninja ZX-RR machines, to provide a constant point of comparison on various tyre specifications.
In the morning session Hofmann also continued with set-up work on the new 2005 chassis, which is in the early stages of evaluation. With another five test sessions scheduled before the first race of the season, Kawasaki's Technical Coordinator, Naoya Kaneko, is confident that the latest evolution of the Ninja ZX-RR will deliver increased performance in race conditions.
Today Nakano ran a total of 61 laps with a best time of 2'03.4s, while Hofmann completed 58 laps of the 5.5km Sepang circuit. Both riders were impressed by the performance and development direction of the new Bridgestone tyres.
Hofmann's time was 2.7s faster than his best race lap in last October's Malaysian GP at this track, while Nakano was 0.8s quicker than his previous best race lap at Sepang.
Tomorrow's third and final day of the Sepang test will see further evaluation of Bridgestone tyres and continued set-up work on the 2005 chassis.
Shinya Nakano: #56
"I'm very happy with today's tyre test because, obviously, Bridgestone have done a lot of work over the winter. I concentrated on rear tyres using a base set-up with the '04 Ninja ZX-RR chassis and motor, and found improved forward drive and endurance levels with some of the new construction tyres. The conditions were hot, but it was perfect for tyre testing and I felt much better on the bike today; I found the first day of testing a little difficult. Now I'm looking forward to trying the new front Bridgestone tyres tomorrow and doing more work with the 2005 prototype chassis."
Alex Hofmann: #66
"That was hot work today. It is a big change in climate coming from winter in Switzerland to this test, but I'm enjoying being back on the bike. The 2004 chassis was our strength last year, so that gave me a good base to work from in evaluating the new Bridgestone tyres. The rears show improved traction and durability, and I like the feel of new front rubber. I think we can be very positive about our tyre potential this season. I did some laps on the '05 bike in the morning but we need more time to maximise the set-up; at the moment I don't feel a big difference from the '04 chassis."
Naoya Kaneko: Technical Coordinator
"Our plan for today was to do a lot of work with Bridgestone, to provide data and information for race tyre development in advance of the first race. For this reason both Shinya and Alex used the 2004 model ZX-RR chassis, because we understand this bike and set-up for Sepang. The new 2005 frame has great potential, but we still have a lot of work to do over the next three months. Alex tried the new bike in the morning session, but stopped early with a small motor problem. In the afternoon both riders completed a very positive tyre test, especially in terms of endurance with the new specification rear tyres."