Shinya Nakano and Randy de Puniet were back in green at Phillip Island today, as the Kawasaki Racing Team unveiled the new 2006 Ninja ZX-RR livery during the opening day of a three-day test at the Australian circuit.
Having suffered tyre problems during the race at Phillip Island three months ago, Shinya Nakano opted to run a new rear tyre from Bridgestone - with positive results - while he worked on refining the set-up of his all-new Ninja ZX-RR to suit the characteristics of the fast and flowing Australian circuit.
The 27-year-old Japanese rider experienced chatter from the rear end of his Ninja ZX-RR during today's test, but is confident that this is a problem that can be eliminated by his crew overnight.
Nakano's fastest lap during the opening day of testing was an improvement on his best race lap at the Phillip Island circuit, and the Kawasaki rider is confident that there are more improvements to come over the next two days.
For Nakano's Kawasaki teammate, Randy de Puniet, today was his first experience of the Phillip Island circuit aboard the Ninja ZX-RR.
The 24-year-old Frenchman adapted quickly to the demands of wrestling a MotoGP bike around the twists and turns of the 4.448km Phillip Island track, but his attempts at a fast lap were hampered by the same chatter problems affecting his teammate.
A switch to his second bike for the afternoon session eliminated the chatter problem, and allowed de Puniet to close to within 0.6s of his more experienced Kawasaki teammate during his final ten laps.
Both Kawasaki riders will focus on important tyre testing with Bridgestone over the course of the next two days.
Shinya Nakano: #56 - 1'31.8 (75 Laps)"We tried different suspension and engine management settings on the bike, and we finished today with a good base setting on the bike. There is still a small problem with chattering from the rear, but we think this is caused by a combination of suspension settings and the rear tyre, and we have some ideas on how to fix this for tomorrow. We had some problems with the right hand side of the tyre during the race here last year, so today I tested a new rear tyre from Bridgestone that was much improved. We had to push hard today to do as many laps as possible, because there is some concern about the weather; it changes so quickly here. Hopefully it will stay dry for the tyre tests with Bridgestone over the next two days."
Randy de Puniet: #17 - 1'32.4 (101 Laps)"This is a new circuit for me on the MotoGP bike, so today has been a steep learning curve again. I had some chatter problems for most of the day, which we're still working to sort out, but I switched to my second bike in the afternoon, and this felt a lot better. It was on this bike that I set my fastest lap of the day. I think we will continue with this bike tomorrow for the tyre tests with Bridgestone. This is a very different circuit to Sepang, and I'm still adapting my style to suit aboard the Ninja ZX-RR, but I'm confident that my lap times will continue to improve over the remaining two days of testing."
Naoya Kaneko: Technical Manager"Today has been mainly about finding a set-up on the 2006 Ninja ZX-RR machines to suit the characteristics of the Phillip Island circuit. Both riders suffered from a small amount of chatter, but this we can resolve with some changes to the suspension settings. Both riders have also tested revised engine management settings, again to try and find the best balance for the bike around Phillip Island, which is a circuit very different in character to Sepang. At the race here last year we had some tyre issues, so the main focus of the test over the next two days will be to evaluate the many new tyres that Bridgestone have brought to this test."