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Kawasaki and Suzuki return to testing duties at Phillip Island

Kawasaki and Suzuki return to testing duties at Phillip Island

Kawasaki and Suzuki return to testing duties at Phillip Island

With the dust having barely settled from intense MotoGP testing for Honda, Ducati, Yamaha and Aprilia at the Phillip Island circuit in Australia last week, the roar of 990cc four-stroke prototypes filled the air once more at the sleepy seaside resort on Monday as Kawasaki and Suzuki continued their preseason development programmes. Mild autumnal weather conditions make the fast and flowing circuit an ideal testing ground, although its proximity to the sea can cause unexpected problems for the riders as Shinya Nakano and Kenny Roberts discovered today.

Kawasaki rider Nakano and Suzuki man Roberts, who was back on board the GSV-R alongside Gregorio Lavilla in the continued absence of injured team-mate John Hopkins, were both involved in high speed collisions with low flying seagulls. Neither rider was injured, although the incidents interrupted their rhythm throughout the day, with Nakano in particular forced to cut short three test runs during the afternoon. "The sea gulls are a bit of a problem here - you can see them coming, but you're moving so fast that there's just no chance to avoid them," explained the Japanese rider. "All you can do is duck behind the screen and hold on."

Nakano and his team-mate Alex Hofmann, who has been relaxing on Australia's Gold Coast since the team's last test at Sepang two weeks ago, started the day with the same bike set up as they'd finished with in Malaysia, before starting the process of fine tuning chassis geometry and suspension settings to better suit the characteristics of the Phillip Island track. The pair also took the opportunity today to evaluate a number of different ignition maps, designed to smooth the power delivery of the 990cc, inline four-cylinder ZX-RR engine.

"Phillip Island is a fast circuit and a lot of fun to ride - I really enjoy testing and racing here," continued Nakano, who set a best lap of 1'33.32 after 78 laps. "High speed grip is very important to lap times at this track, so we've focussed today on testing different chassis settings to find an improvement in this area, and we've definitely seen some positive results. Tomorrow we will focus more on finding a good setting for the rear of the bike and, hopefully, this will lead to further improvements in high speed grip. This is my third test on the Ninja ZX-RR and I felt a lot more confident on the bike today. "

Hofmann set a best time of 1'33.56 after 82 laps and was satisfied with his effort on the first day. "We started today on the settings from Sepang, but we knew we were going to have to make quite a few changes to the bike for it to work around such a fast circuit as Phillip Island," commented the German. "Once we started working on set up I struggled a bit with the rear of the bike; I just didn't have the confidence in the rear grip. But we made a small improvement late this afternoon and that's given me the confidence that tomorrow, with fresh tyres on the bike, we can continue to make improvements in this area."

* No times were released by Suzuki Racing.

MotoGP, 2003, Kawasaki Racing Team

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