Kawasaki's John Hopkins and Anthony West were left frustrated today, after rear traction problems left them unable to fulfill their true potential in this afternoon's 22-lap Chinese Grand Prix. Hopkins finished a difficult race in 14th position, with West crossing the line a further 20 seconds back in 17th place.
After qualifying on the fifth row of the grid yesterday, Hopkins was quick to make up places from the start of today's race. The Anglo-American put himself in touch with the leaders, including eventual race winner Valentino Rossi, by riding around the outside of the field at turn one. Unfortunately, Hopkins had it all to do again after a coming together with Alex de Angelis forced him to run on at the end of the main straight, and left him nursing a painful puncture wound after catching his knee on his own foot peg.Rear traction problems hampered the 24-year-old Kawasaki pilot's attempts to work his way back through the field, but his persistence and determination were rewarded with two valuable championship points, as he fought his way up to 14th place by race end.
The main straight also caused problems for West, who was passed by his teammate after running off the track early on in the race. Like Hopkins, the 27-year-old Australian was frustrated by a lack of rear grip from the start of the race, but he also identified a lack of front-end grip under braking as being a major factor in his disappointing result.
With both riders having declared themselves satisfied with the performance of their Ninja ZX-RR machines in race trim and on race tyres yesterday, the reason for such an unexpected deterioration in rear traction was not immediately apparent. Kawasaki's engineers will now look to the data to identify the problem ahead of the next race, which takes place at Le Mans in just two weeks time.
John Hopkins, "We went out in the wet warm-up session this morning with high hopes of a good result in the rain or dry today. By the time we got to the race, the circuit had started to dry out and we had to make a decision on tyre choice, which maybe wasn't the best. I struggled right from the start with rear traction problems, and I pushed hard to make my way through the field. I made a few mistakes and ran off the track in places, it was a really tough race. I'm very disappointed as it's not the result I wanted for my hundredth Grand Prix, but we must stay focussed and try to make amends at the next round."
Anthony West, "I was looking for a better result than this today. The conditions were not ideal as the track was quite slippery after being wet this morning and it gradually dried out during the race. I followed John for a few laps and I think we were both experiencing similar problems with a lack of rear grip. I ran off the track in places because I just couldn't make the bike stick. I'm frustrated, as we need to make headway with these issues we've been having, but I'm determined for us to make a step forwards very soon."