The Kawasaki Racing Team got the 2006 MotoGP season off to a flying start during the opening day of a planned four-day test at Malaysia's Sepang circuit.
Shinya Nakano and Randy de Puniet started the day with shakedown tests aboard the latest version of Kawasaki's Ninja ZX-RR MotoGP machine, which features a completely redesigned inline, four-cylinder engine and chassis.
With the shakedown tests completed successfully in the morning, Nakano and his crew switched their attention to set-up and refinement of the all-new bike, as well as testing new suspension components from Íhlins. The Japanese rider quickly identified a number of areas where improvements could be made, and these changes will be made by his crew overnight.
A newcomer to the MotoGP class, Randy de Puniet impressed with his consistency and speed aboard his Ninja ZX-RR, during a 15-lap race simulation late in the afternoon test session.
The 24-year-old Frenchman may still be adapting his riding style to the additional power and weight of a MotoGP bike, but his fastest lap today was just 0.2s behind his more experienced teammate, Nakano.
Both riders will continue the set-up and development of the new Ninja ZX-RR during tomorrow's test, when they will also complete a scheduled tyre test with Bridgestone.
Shinya Nakano: #56 - 2'03.7 (43 Laps)"I was in and out of the pit box a lot this morning, but this is normal when you bring a brand new bike to the racetrack for the first time, as there are always a lot of small things that need adjusting or changing. This afternoon I was able to put in more laps on the bike and, overall, my first impression is very good. The handling is a big improvement, and I can feel that the new engine has more power then the old. I need to spend more time on the bike to get a better understanding of the engine characteristics, but already I think this new bike has a lot of potential. There is still some work for us to do in terms of set-up, both the chassis and the engine, but we will continue with this process tomorrow, when we will also be running some important tyre tests with Bridgestone."
Randy de Puniet: #17 - 2'03.9 (58 Laps)"Today was a good day for both myself and the team. I managed to put in a lot of laps aboard the new bike and my feeling was very good. At the end of the afternoon session I completed a 15-lap race simulation, with my fastest time of the day coming on the 11th lap. I had a good rhythm on the bike, the tyres and the bike were working well, and my lap times were consistent throughout. We will not make any major changes to the bike overnight ahead of the planned Bridgestone tyre test tomorrow. Overall, I'm pleased with today's test and I'm looking forward to getting back out on track tomorrow."
Naoya Kaneko: Technical Manager"Today was really a first shakedown test for the new bike, as this is the first time we've run the new engine on the track. For a first outing the results have been very positive. Shinya and Randy were able to gain a better understanding of the characteristics of the new engine, and both riders have already started suggesting changes that will lead to further improvements tomorrow. We also tested new front and rear suspension from Íhlins and, again, the results have been mainly positive."
Harald Eckl: Team Manager"Overall, today has been a good start to the new season for the Kawasaki Racing Team. I was surprised at just how quickly Randy has adapted to the Ninja ZX-RR in such a short space of time. During his race simulation today he was posting consistent lap times that were very close to Shinya's fastest lap. This is good for the team, to have two riders that are close enough on track to push each other, and also to develop the bike together. Over the next three days the riders and mechanics will concentrate on providing Kawasaki engineers with the data they need to continue the development process, as well as completing an important tyre testing schedule for Bridgestone."