Kawasaki riders, Shinya Nakano and Alex Hofmann, ended the three day test at Sepang with career best performances at the Malaysian track today.
Both Ninja ZX-RR pilots were in great form, despite another day of tropical heat and humidity with track temperatures reaching an exhausting 59 degrees.
Nakano completed 34 laps today with a fastest time of 2'02.7s, his best of the Sepang test and 1.5s faster than his previous best in last October's Malaysian Grand Prix.
With a final day total of 48 laps, Hofmann posted an improved time of 2.03.7s, a personal best by 2.9s seconds at the 5.5 km circuit. Unfortunately the test schedule did not allow the 24-year-old German rider an opportunity to do a final run on the best combination of front and rear tyres.
The primary aim of the test was to evaluate prototype versions of the 2005 Ninja ZX-RR and a new generation of Bridgestone tyres, both front and rear.
The new tyre selection included revised constructions, contours and compounds and clearly showed that Kawasaki's tyre partner have done a lot of development work during the winter off-season.
The chassis and suspension set-up programme for the Sepang test was designed to provide data for the development of the Ninja ZX-RR chassis, which will evolve over the next three months, before being debuted by Nakano and Hofmann in the first race of the 2005 season at Jerez.
Back-to-back runs with the well balanced '04 ZX-RR were an essential point of comparison, and both Nakano and Hofmann continued that programme today.
This test was the first appearance of the revised chassis and, not surprisingly, it will now undergo further refinement based on the feedback from Sepang.
For the tyre tests Kawasaki and Bridgestone engineers used the known performance base of last year's ZX-RR on which Nakano scored Kawasaki's first four-stroke MotoGP podium in the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi.
Shinya Nakano: #56
"Today was important to provide feedback on the '05 prototype ZX-RR frame with different stiffness, and it was good to have engineers from both Kawasaki and SRT in the pit box with us to assess the performance of the new chassis. This is our first test with the new machine and, at the moment, we don't have the same balance as we do with the '04 bike. But this is to be expected at a first test, and it's important that we come away from here with a clear direction that will allow us to move forward with the development of the '05 bike. I did my fastest lap with the best combination of the new Bridgestone front and rear tyres, both of which were very consistent and a clear step forward."
Alex Hofmann: #66
"The new frame has some positive points, but like all new developments, there are also some areas for improvement, and it was important to learn these things early in the development programme. For me, a big advantage is the packaging and the way I sit on the bike with my 1.8 metre height; I feel much more comfortable and relaxed and part of the machine. I also need less pressure on the handlebars under acceleration. This test showed just how good the '04 ZX-RR chassis is; I'm still faster on the '04 bike, but that's to be expected on the first outing and is sure to change at subsequent tests. As for the latest Bridgestone tyres, I really like the new fronts. They give more grip and confidence on turn-in, as well as better balance as you release the brake. I think any rider using Bridgestone tyres this year will be very happy."
Naoya Kaneko: Technical Coordinator
"The main chassis work today was to evaluate a variation of the 2005 prototype with a different stiffness option. The total package of the '05 bike still needs some changes to improve on the very good balance of last year's Ninja ZX-RR, so this was a valuable opportunity to obtain the required data in back-to-back runs. Both riders are impressed with the new generation Bridgestone tyres, and Shinya found an excellent combination of new contour front and rear tyres for his best lap time. The positive points of the tyres are improved cornering and drive grip. Overall this test has provided the direction we needed for further chassis and tyre development for the coming season."