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Kawasaki begin testing in Australia with Hopkins, Melandri and Jacque.
The first day of testing for Kawasaki in Phillip Island was an uncomfortable one for John Hopkins, as the Anglo-American continued to feel the pain of some of the injuries picked up over the course of 2008. Hopkins, whose crash at the Australian circuit at the beginning of the year set the tone for a difficult season, found the more extensive schedule of testing somewhat taxing on Wednesday.
Seventy-six laps –the fastest of which was a 1´33.3- took their toll on the 25 year-old, in particular his left knee and ankle fractured in Assen back in June. `Every time I change gear the tendons in my ankle rub across the metal plate that was inserted to fix the bones, and this causes the ankle to swell up a lot. My knee also kept locking out, especially on the left-hand corners, so I´m not in great physical shape,´ admits Hopkins.
Nonetheless, thoughts of abandoning the test have not crossed his mind –particularly in light of progress made with new crew chief Naoya Kaneko.
`We communicate together very well and we´ve definitely made some improvements to the bike. Naoya is very methodical in his approach, but he also has a fresh way of looking at the problems and, as a result, we´ve made some big steps forward already. Now I just need more time on track, injuries permitting.´
New teammate Marco Melandri bested Hopkins´ time, recording a 1´32.5 lap equal to his best in last month´s race. The Italian continued to adapt the Ninja ZX-RR to his riding style, although a lack of front end feeling was a persistent problem over the course of his 93 turns of the Phillip Island circuit.
The fastest rider of the day for `Team Green´ was test rider Olivier Jacque, at the scene of his 2000 250cc World Championship victory. The Frenchman was the only rider using the new Kawasaki chassis and electronics package designed to improve power delivery, and clocked a 1´32.4 quickest lap. Describing the potential of the chassis used as `80%, with the aim of bringing it up to 100% after more setup time´ Jacque´s input this week will shape the 2009 Ninja´s development back in Japan.
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