The Kawasaki Racing Team have completed their 2005 season with an exhausting, but very productive, three day test at the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia.
And although todays third and final day was shortened by heavy rain showers in the morning, both Kawasaki riders, Shinya Nakano and Randy de Puniet, were able to post impressive lap times.
Nakano set the unofficial sixth fastest time of the test with a lap of 2'02.93 late on the final day. Meanwhile his new teammate, French rookie De Puniet, made a strong impression with a best lap of 2'04.27.
Riding the first prototype of the 2006 Ninja ZX-RR, Nakano completed 152 laps over three days despite being hampered by bruised ligaments in his left hand, an injury suffered at Valencia three weeks ago.
De Puniet made the most of his track opportunities to complete 183 laps, all but ten of these laps aboard the 2005 race version of the ZX-RR. Late on the final afternoon De Puniet ran 10 laps on the 2006 prototype.
The new machine features a new chassis and swinging arm combination fitted with a smaller, and more compact, in-line 990cc motor. Apart from a range of chassis and suspension set-up options, Nakano also evaluated two different firing order motors in preparation for the 2006 season, plus a range of the latest Bridgestone rear tyres.
De Puniet's main task was to continue his transition from the 250cc class to the much faster and heavier MotoGP machine.
The opening day of the test was also delayed by morning rain showers, with day two providing the best of the conditions with a typically hot and humid day at the Sepang Circuit.
Following the test both Nakano and De Puniet will enjoy a break from track activities during the winter test ban period before the first test session of 2006 in late January, also in Sepang.
hinya Nakano: 2'02.93 - 152 laps;
"I wasn't sure I could ride here for three days because I still had some pain and stiffness in my left hand. But in the end I could complete the test and was able to push for a fast time on the final afternoon. I'm very happy because we got through a big programme of work with the new prototype which has set a new direction, with both improved handling and engine response. I tried two different firing order motors to provide our engineers with data to evaluate the best combination of torque and top-end power. I'm in a very positive mood after this test and I'm looking forward to the next stage of development after a short holiday."
Randy de Puniet: 2'04.27 - 183 laps;
"I have a very positive feeling from this test because I found some good solutions with the set-up on the '05 model ZX-RR. I did my best time on tyres that had done 12 laps and I'm sure I could have been faster on new tyres, but this was not my target at this test - the main job was to learn and understand the base set-up of the bike after coming from 250s. On day one I concentrated on adapting my riding style and then completed some testing of engine management and fuel injection set-ups, with the chance to run some consistent laps on the third day. Coming from a 250 the weight, power and engine braking of a MotoGP machine is completely different, but I'm happy with my progress - I have a good feeling from both the bike and tyres."
Harald Eckl: Team Manager;
"The 2006 prototype ZX-RR is still not in its final specification, as Kawasaki engineers continue development in readiness for winter testing. But so far the response from the new chassis and motor is very positive and clearly a step in the right direction, especially with handling stability. We still have to improve engine performance and controllability and we now have some very good data for the future. Randy's efforts at this test were very encouraging, he made a big impression with his consistent pace and also his technical feedback to the engineers, despite his lack of MotoGP experience. He still has a lot to learn and understand, especially with things like engine braking, after coming from 250cc two strokes, but he is making very good progress."