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Testing blown slightly off track for Kawasaki and Suzuki in Australia

Testing blown slightly off track for Kawasaki and Suzuki in Australia

Testing blown slightly off track for Kawasaki and Suzuki in Australia

The notorious high winds which often sweep across the spectacular rolling landscape of Phillip Island were once again protagonist on the second day of a scheduled four-day test for the Kawasaki and Suzuki MotoGP teams in Australia. A stiff breeze blasting in from the sea at the end of the straight and lifting underneath the bikes on the more exposed sections of the circuit made conditions difficult for both teams, who are both developing Bridgestone tyres ahead of the Japanese rubber manufacturer's third season in MotoGP.

Kawasaki riders Shinya Nakano and Alex Hofmann continued to experiment with the 2004 version of the Ninja ZX-RR, with Nakano finding a good chassis set-up in the morning before working on racing starts in the afternoon and Hofmann concentrating his efforts on finding a good rear set-up. For Suzuki riders Kenny Roberts and Gregorio Lavilla it was another day of familiarisation to the 2004 GSV-R, with Roberts' only previous test at Sepang cut short due to a crash on the first day and former WSB star Lavilla, currently without a ride, stepping in for the injured John Hopkins as he did in Malaysia.

Whilst Suzuki are not releasing times from this test until tomorrow, Team Manager Garry Taylor said he was happy with their progress so far. "We have the circuit booked for four days but with the way things are going we may pack up tomorrow," said Taylor. "We expected the weather conditions to be a bit more disruptive than they have been and, despite the wind, we've been quite lucky. Kenny hit a seagull again today but that was the only setback and we're satisfied with the test so far. We'll see how things go on Wednesday."

Kawasaki do plan to test until Thursday and today reported good progress for both riders, particularly Hofmann, who clocked 1'32.92 and ran up 66 laps despite the blustery conditions, improving his time from yesterday by over half a second. "The wind, which is a lot stronger today than it was yesterday, has caused us a few problems," admitted the German rookie. "It gets under the bike all around the circuit, which makes it difficult to stay on line, but where it's losing us the most time is on the start finish straight. Out of the last turn and onto the main straight you're riding into a headwind, which means I was a lot slower through this section of the track today than yesterday.

"We also suffered a minor mechanical problem today, which resulted in me running wide and having to lay the bike down in the gravel trap to avoid hitting the barrier on the outside of the turn. There was no damage to myself or the bike, but it meant that we were limited to testing with the older bike for most of the afternoon. Even so, I still managed to lap consistently below my lap time from yesterday, so I'm happy enough with our progress today. If tomorrow brings calmer conditions then I'm confident that we can continue to improve both the bike and the lap times."

Nakano, who was forced to switch to his second bike in the afternoon after the engineers decided to make some modifications to his number one engine, set a best time of 1'32.94 after 61 laps. "This morning we continued to work on fine tuning the chassis, eventually finding a set up that seems to work quite well around this circuit," commented the Japanese rider. "This afternoon we were hoping to continue tyre testing, but the wind made holding a line very difficult at some corners and then I had to switch to my second bike while my mechanics worked on my number one machine.

"Instead, I took the opportunity to try some practice starts, as the Kawasaki clutch is very different to what I'm used to. The results were a little disappointing, but the fact that I was able to talk directly to the person who designed the clutch means that I'm confident that we'll see an improvement in this area in time for our first European test. As long as the wind drops overnight then we'll spend tomorrow tyre testing for Bridgestone."

MotoGP, 2003, Kawasaki Racing Team

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