Kawasaki's Shinya Nakano blitzed his way to the top of the timesheet at Jerez today, in front of Spanish race fans who'd turned out in their thousands to get a sneak preview of the MotoGP riders ahead of the opening race of the season at Jerez in three weeks time.
With race conditions likely to be similar to those of today, Nakano started his test programme working with Bridgestone to identify potential race tyres, before running a race distance simulation to confirm their initial selection early in the afternoon.
The 28-year-old Kawasaki rider also used the 27-lap endurance run to evaluate the latest revisions to the fuel injection system on his Ninja ZX-RR engine, designed to improve driveability around the technically demanding Jerez circuit.
Late in the afternoon session Nakano returned to the track with a qualifying tyre fitted to his Ninja ZX-RR, lapping the 4.432 km Jerez circuit more than half-a-second faster than his fifth place qualifying time from the race here last year, and almost the same distance ahead of his nearest rival today, Loris Capirossi.
Nakano declared himself happy with today's performance, but still keen to see further improvements during tomorrow's final day of testing.
Hot on Nakano's heels was his Kawasaki teammate, Randy de Puniet, who set the fourth fastest time today, despite still suffering with the toothache that caused him so many problems during the opening day at Jerez yesterday.
De Puniet, who was running today on a slightly older specification engine than Nakano, started with tyre testing for Bridgestone, working his way through a number of different compounds and profiles on the rear of his Ninja ZX-RR.
The 25-year-old Frenchman also evaluated different fuel injection and engine management settings, in a bid to better control the bike when hard on the throttle out of the turns.
De Puniet will run a race simulation tomorrow afternoon, after his endurance run today was cut short after just 24 laps due to problems with rear traction on his Ninja ZX-RR.
Shinya Nakano: 1st - 1'40.047 (70 Laps)"It's been a hard day today, because we've been testing specifically for the race here in three weeks time, so it was good to finish with the fastest time. This morning we tested quite a few tyres from Bridgestone and then in the early part of the afternoon we ran a 27-lap race simulation to confirm tyre choice for the race, when we think conditions will be fairly similar. Late in the session we put a qualifying tyre in the bike to test, and it was on this tyre that I set the fastest time of the day. In the new Ninja ZX-RR we have a very competitive package, and I'm confident that we will unlock more of the bike's potential in the future, but for now we have found a combination of engine performance, chassis settings and tyres that, together, suit the characteristics of the Jerez circuit very well. We still have some decisions to make about our race tyre selection, so we will continue with tyre testing tomorrow."
Randy de Puniet: 4th - 1'40.839 (89 Laps)"If someone had told me back in October that I'd finish the second day of the Jerez IRTA test fourth fastest, I would not have believed them. I feel really comfortable on the bike and it's working well here in Jerez, just as it has at all the pre-season tests. I still had some pain from my tooth, but it's more of a dull ache today and it wasn't such a distraction on the bike. We've covered a lot of ground today, made some more improvements to the bike, and I'm happy with my lap time. Tomorrow we hope to test the same specification engine as Shinya, but it depends on whether the parts get here in time; they are stuck in Madrid at the moment I understand. Either way, new parts or not, I hope we can continue to improve, both the bike and my lap time, during tomorrow's final day of testing."
Harald Eckl: Team Manager"I'm sure that many people seeing Shinya's name at the top of the timesheet, and Randy's just three places further back, will think that it's some kind of miracle given our results over the past three years. In reality, our performance today is a direct result of all the hard work put in by Kawasaki, the team, the riders and also Bridgestone during winter testing. I hope that we will be able to carry this momentum into the first race and come away with a good result, because there is no better way to start the season."