The Kawasaki Racing Team's John Hopkins and Anthony West finally got their 2008 MotoGP campaign underway today, during the first of three days of testing at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia.
After almost seven weeks off the bike, both Hopkins and West used this opening day of testing to get themselves back up to speed aboard their 2008 Ninja ZX-RR machines. Recalibrating the brain to MotoGP speed is always a difficult process, but an inconsistent track surface with varying degrees of grip made the job even more challenging for both riders today.
Hopkins quickly mastered the tricky conditions, increasing his pace with every run, but his teammate joined a list of unfortunates, including Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi, who were caught out by the inconsistencies in the track surface.On his last run of the day West lost the front going into the final hairpin, bringing his first day of testing to a premature end after crashing without injury.
Despite this being an acclimatisation day for the riders, both were able to start the evaluation process on new chassis and clutch components on their Ninja ZX-RR machines. This test and evaluation program will continue in earnest tomorrow, when Hopkins and West return for an intensive second day of testing, which will include a comprehensive tyre evaluation in conjunction with Bridgestone.
But while the workload promises to be punishing, the two regular race pilots will receive some welcome assistance from Kawasaki test and development riders, Olivier Jacque and Tamaki Serizawa, both of whom also completed a full schedule of testing today.
John Hopkins, "Today was all about getting back up to speed on the bike after such a long layoff, but still we managed to test some new chassis and engine components, with positive results. Overall the bike feels improved over the bike I last rode in Jerez back in November, but we will only get to see the full potential of the new parts once we start the fine-tuning process over the next two days. Tomorrow we start tyre testing with Bridgestone, but we'll also continue working to improve the set-up of the bike, before switching back to focus on this completely during the final day here in Sepang. It's been a good start today, but tomorrow the real work begins."
Anthony West, "The first day back on the bike after a long break is always a bit of an experience. You feel like you're really motoring, only to come back to the pit box and find out that you're way off race pace. But it all comes back quite quickly, and I managed to improve my times with every run today. Unfortunately my day ended slightly earlier than was planned, after I lost the front at the hairpin. I turned in at the same speed as on my previous laps, but I think my line was a little bit different and I hit a bump as a result. Anyway, the front tucked under and down I went, luckily without injury. Despite the crash it's good to finally get the season underway, and I'm looking forward to getting back on the bike tomorrow."