The Kawasaki Racing Team were back in action at Jerez today, just four days after the race transporter carrying their Ninja ZX-RR MotoGP bikes was completely destroyed in a road traffic accident on the way from Barcelona.
The bikes, which survived the crash undamaged, finally arrived at the Jerez circuit early on Thursday morning, and the Kawasaki mechanics have had to work flat out to ensure that each rider had his full complement of two bikes for this final pre-season test.
Shinya Nakano started today working with his crew on machine set-up for the technically demanding, 4.423 km, Circuito de Jerez, before moving on to evaluate a range of different tyres on the rear of his Ninja ZX-RR for Bridgestone.
The 28-year-old Japanese rider ended the opening day of testing with the third fastest lap time, despite being forced to finish early due to a mechanical problem with his number one machine.
As well as adapting to the demands of the Jerez circuit, Nakano has also had to familiarise himself with two new crew members, drafted in at short notice to temporarily replace the two mechanics injured in Monday's accident.
Jerome Galland and Christian Boudinot arrived in Jerez on Thursday afternoon and have been on a steep learning curve as they worked to familiarise themselves with Kawasaki's Ninja ZX-RR, under the guidance of Nakano's crew chief, Fiorenzo Fanali.
Severe toothache denied Randy de Puniet of much needed sleep ahead of today's test, and the 25-year-old Frenchman was still in some pain as he arrived this morning in the Kawasaki pit box.
De Puniet ran top six on the timesheet during the morning, but was forced to quit the test early when the toothache, and the lack of sleep the previous night, started to make it difficult for him to maintain concentration around the technical, and very fast, Jerez circuit.
De Puniet will visit a dentist this evening for treatment for his toothache, and is confident of improving his lap time significantly when he returns to the track tomorrow.
Shinya Nakano: #56 - 1'41.477 (53 Laps)"It was strange without Jason and Josef in the box today, and I hope they will make a speedy recovery and that they return to the team very soon. Jerome and Christian, who joined the team at very short notice just yesterday, are fitting in well and both have done a great job. Our main focus today was again set-up, but also tyre testing with Bridgestone. Some of the rear tyres we have tested before, but we also tried new compounds here that worked well on the bike. It's always good to finish near the top of the time sheets during testing, but we still have some work to do. Tomorrow we will continue working with Bridgestone evaluating tyres, as well as running a race simulation in the afternoon."
Randy de Puniet: #17 - 1'41.915 (57 Laps)"Last night I started suffering with a toothache and, as a result, only managed about two hours sleep all night. Today I still had a lot of pain from my tooth, to the point where it was affecting my concentration, and that's just not safe on a MotoGP bike. So, we finished testing early and I am now going straight to the dentist, who I hope will be able to do something for my toothache. Despite the problems, it's still been a productive day. I am happy with my lap time, as it's only a second behind the leaders, and I am confident there is still at least half a second more to come tomorrow."
Naoya Kaneko: Technical Manager"With all four bikes in the race transporter that crashed on Monday, the team have worked flat out to make sure we were ready to start testing today. For most of the day we have concentrated on set-up for this circuit, but we've also done some tyre testing with Bridgestone, to identify a base compound for the opening Grand Prix here in three weeks time. Both Shinya and Randy finished the test early today; Shinya because of a mechanical problem with his number one bike, and Randy because of toothache, but tomorrow we will continue with a full day of testing."