A classy performance in variable weather conditions saw Japanese ace Shinya Nakano claim the fastest lap time on day two of the final pre-season IRTA test at Jerez.
Nakano's stylish effort was backed-up by his ever-improving teammate Alex Hofmann, who was sixth fastest as he continued on a steep learning curve with the new Ninja ZX-RR big-bang motor.
Today was just Hofmann's third outing using the new motor, which has completely different engine characteristics to last year's 'screamer' version of the 990cc, in-line four-cylinder power plant.
Apart from engine set-up, Hofmann also tested a revised rear swinging arm and chassis geometry.
The pre-lunch session was conducted initially on a wet and then slowly drying track after steady morning rain showers.
Clearing sun broke through in the afternoon, although only the final hour provided close to ideal track conditions. Nakano's fastest lap of 1'42.112 was three tenths of a second slower than his day one time.
However the conditions provided a valuable opportunity for Kawasaki and their tyre partner Bridgestone to collect valuable data for future development.
Bridgestone had variations of their latest full-tread, wet pattern tyres available and both Nakano and Hofmann were impressed with the improved side grip.
Also aiding wet track performance is the smoother power delivery and improved throttle control of the big-bang ZX-RR motor, although, as technical director Ichiro Yoda notes, there is still more to come from this motor, which is still in an early development phase.
In the dry afternoon session Nakano's main job was to gather data for Bridgestone in advance of the first race, and his lap times reflect the competitive level of the Japanese tyres at Jerez.
Kawasaki engineers are planning to assess updated settings from electronics supplier Magneti Marelli during tomorrow's third and final day of testing.
Shinya Nakano: #56 - 46 laps (1'42.112)
"It's a good feeling to be fastest, although there were still some wet patches from the rain. In the dry the Bridgestone tyres are very compatible with this track, and I just worked to provide as much data as possible. The new type Bridgestone wet tyre, combined with the big-bang engine, is a noticeable improvement from last year in the rain. There is now better side grip and easier throttle control in slippery conditions, but there is still more work to be done."
Alex Hofmann: #66 - 42 laps (1'42.699)
"The new Bridgestone wet tyres are a step forward, although the consistency is not perfect once the track starts to dry out. In the dry I'm working on the set-up of the engine braking with the big-bang motor, and I'm still lacking some confidence. In the slower first gear corners the motor is pushing me forward rather than helping me control the rear tyre. I hope we have a clear day tomorrow to try and solve this problem for the first race."
Ichiro Yoda: Technical Director
"Today's weather was very beneficial, because it provided some very clear directions for our engineers, both at Kawasaki and Bridgestone. With the wet tyres the performance needs to improve in drying conditions when the rain has stopped. Also very clear from today's wet conditions is that we have to improve the throttle connection and power delivery with the big-bang motor, as this is the most important function of a MotoGP engine. So, overall, today was an excellent day to provide a future direction for our next development phase."