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De Puniet: `The hardest race I've ever done´

De Puniet: `The hardest race I've ever done´

De Puniet: `The hardest race I've ever done´

Randy de Puniet rode what he referred to as the hardest race of his life to take 12th place in US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, after being left to fly the flag for Kawasaki alone when his teammate, Shinya Nakano, retired with a mechanical problem shortly before the halfway stage of the race.

A poor start from the fifth row of the grid saw de Puniet chasing the whole field into the first turn, but the 25-year-old Frenchman quickly got his head down to reclaim two positions, to move up to 17th place, by the end of the second lap.

With the rear of his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-RR moving around on the entry to every corner, and the handling completely different to that experienced during warm-up session, de Puniet was left with little option but to aim for a race finish.

The Frenchman's determination was rewarded on lap 15, when Casey Stoner's crash and Nakano's retirement elevated him to fifteenth position, and a potential points scoring finish.

De Puniet moved up again as a result of Toni Elias crashing just one lap later, this time into fourteenth position. The Kawasaki pilot was able to close on Makoto Tamada in thirteenth position, but felt that with his Ninja ZX-RR so unpredictable on corner entry, putting in a pass wasn't a safe option.

As the race drew to a close, de Puniet looked set to collect two championship points for 14th position, but the MotoGP rookie found himself elevated to 12th place at the chequered flag when, on the final lap, Valentino Rossi was forced to retire with a mechanical problem and a mistake by Alex Hofmann dropped him back down the field. Shinya Nakano got away from the line in ninth place from the third row of the grid, but quickly lost contact with the leading group after Valentino Rossi came past him on lap four.

While he was unable to match the pace of the frontrunners, Nakano was comfortably lapping in the low 1'25s bracket and looked set for a top ten finish until a mechanical failure forced him to retire his Ninja ZX-RR from the race shortly before the halfway stage.

Nakano's retirement drops the Japanese rider from eight to tenth position in the World Championship standings.

Randy de Puniet
"That has got to be the hardest race I've ever done. We knew the conditions would make the race difficult, but I wasn't expecting it to be so physically demanding. I got a really bad start, but then the bike felt totally different in the race to how it felt during morning warm-up; I guess as a result of the increase in temperature. The rear end was moving around a lot and, even though I could close onto the back of Makoto Tamada towards the end of the race, it would have been too dangerous to have tried to put in a pass. At the end we picked up some valuable points, but I can't say I'm happy with the result."

Shinya Nakano
"It is so frustrating to be sidelined by a mechanical problem, especially because it has dropped me down the championship standings. I got a reasonable start but it was obvious straightaway that we didn't have the set-up needed for this track. I couldn't match the pace of the guys at the front of the race, but I had settled into a good rhythm and I think a top ten finish was a possibility. Unfortunately, at around the halfway point the engine started making some strange noises, and then it stopped and I was forced to retire. We don't know what the problem was, but now we must use the summer break to relax, so that we can come back at Brno even stronger."

Tags:
MotoGP, 2006, RED BULL U.S. GRAND PRIX

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