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Yoda-era begins for Kawasaki at Sepang

Yoda-era begins for Kawasaki at Sepang

Yoda-era begins for Kawasaki at Sepang

Kawasaki's French Connection take to the track for the first time this year from today in Sepang, as they prepare themselves and the Ninja ZX-RR for the 2007 season. Aside from being the green machine's first outing since the lifting of the six week testing ban, the current test in Malaysia also marks the first appearance of Kawasaki Racing on-track since they took operations "in-house" in November. The departure of Harold Eckl, replaced by Racing Director and former developer of the Yamaha M1 Ichiro Yoda, signals a new era for the Japanese team, who will have to work hard to make up for their lack of continuity from previous seasons.

All involved are excited about the new challenge, with Randy de Puniet and Olivier Jacque both keen to get back testing and with a point to prove.

"After nearly two months off the bike I can't wait to get started again," commented the young rider approaching his second season in the premier class. "I tested the new bike only very briefly at the end of last year, but it was enough to understand that it is a very different machine to the 990cc bike we raced in 2006, and that it demands a completely different riding style to get the best from it. I don't think there will be any problems adapting to the characteristics of the 800cc Ninja ZX-RR, but I guess we'll find out over the next three days. Obviously I want to end the test close to the fastest guys, but I'll be relatively happy if we leave here with a good base set-up and a better understanding of how to get the best from the bike at this circuit."

Team-mate Olivier Jacque is well aware of the work involved in developing the Kawasaki, having been involved in a test rider role in previous seasons. The chance to reap the rewards of his work will be added motivation in 2007.

"It's good to be back full time in MotoGP with Kawasaki, and I'm definitely looking forward to the season ahead," commented Jacque. " For this test we will concentrate on finding a good base set-up for the new bike, but this will also be the first time I've worked with my new crew chief, Fiorenzo Fanali, so it will be an ideal opportunity for us both to check each other out and to find the best way of working together. As I said, the bike is new, so we will also be looking to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the new Ninja ZX-RR, so that we can pass this information back to the development engineers in Kawasaki's race department in Japan. My first impression of the bike when we tested it in November was that it's like a 250cc machine in feel, but with a lot more power. During the next three days I need to refine that assessment so that we can figure out how to take advantage of the unique characteristics of the 800cc machine."

The man heading the project, Ichiro Yoda, explains the objectives for the team over the coming days.

"The fact that we are here in Sepang and all ready to start the new season is down to a lot of hard work by everyone involved in Kawasaki's MotoGP project. Our team members in Europe have cooperated closely with Kawasaki's European subsidiary to ensure that we have the infrastructure necessary to support our racing activities, while Kawasaki's engineers in Japan have worked long hours to develop our new 800cc ZX-RR into a competitive package with which to start the season. This cooperation between the many elements that make up the Kawasaki family has produced a strong team, which I'm sure will pay dividends for us in the future. Now we must focus on the next month of testing if we are to realise the full potential of our 800cc machine ready for the first race in Qatar. Our goals for the next three days are clear. Firstly we must find a base set-up on the new bike that both riders are happy with, and then we will start the refinement process based on the riders' feedback and analysis of the data downloaded from the bike. At this stage of the season our first priority must be our development schedule, but I see no reason why we shouldn't be aiming for a high position on the final timesheet by the end of these three days."

MotoGP, 2007, Kawasaki Racing Team

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