On-track MotoGP activity ended for 2007 today after the final test of the year drew to a close at Jerez. The Kawasaki Racing Team have been using the time at the Spanish track to test new parts and a variety of Bridgestone tyres whilst working to improve the overall package of the 800cc Ninja ZX-RR.
Newcomer to the team, John Hopkins, has been giving plenty of feedback to his engineers and is making steady progress at perfecting the bike for his requirements. A new frame, clutch parts and engine components are amongst numerous changes which have assisted the 24-year-old in his task and he's already feeling at home.
Anthony West, similarly, has been using his first ever winter test season to really get to grips with the bike he first rode, mid season, earlier this year. Like Hopkins, he has been involved in an effort to improve corner stability in addition to trying out numerous settings and parts on his machine.Lap times have not been a concern for either rider as the objective at present is to ensure both bikes are working at the highest possible level and in such a way so that both Hopkins and West can take full advantage of them.
Overall, the team are feeling hugely positive after their time at Jerez, and Valencia and Phillip Island before that, and are more than satisfied they are moving in the right direction. Enormous amounts of data have been collected and, along with the responses of riders and engineers, the feedback will head to Kawasaki in Japan for analysis and action during December's test ban period.
As the team depart Spain for the winter break, Hopkins is looking forward to his imminent marriage to his fiancee, Ashleigh, whilst West has a punishing fitness schedule lined up. They will be back in action at Sepang in late January 2008, ready to continue their preparations for next season.
Anthony West, while the lap times haven't been what I was hoping for, we've covered a lot of ground during the three days here at Jerez. We've tried a whole range of different settings, switching from one extreme to the other, to give us a better understanding of the effect these changes have on the bike. The result is that both my new crew chief, Juan Martinez, and myself will head to the next test in Sepang with a much better understanding of how the bike works and what combination of settings best suits my riding style. From here I go to Munich to have a plate and four screws removed from my left wrist, after which I'll head back home to Australia for Christmas. After a hectic second half to the season I was intending to chill out for a while when I got home, but if I've learnt one thing this year it's that you have to be fit to ride in MotoGP, so the plan now is to work on my fitness over the testing ban, with a few hundred laps on the motocross bike.
Michael Bartholemy, we finish the season happy with what we've achieved since the Valencia race. The new team members have been integrated into our existing structure with no problems, and already we're starting to see the benefits of their experience. We're also benefiting from the arrival of John Hopkins. His feedback has been extremely accurate and we now have a clear direction for our development engineers. That he's jumped on our Ninja ZX-RR and declared the bike only in need of some refinement, and no fundamental changes, means that Kawasaki's race engineers will be able to focus completely on addressing the areas for improvement that he's identified. The work that John has done over the last month will also pay dividends for Anthony, as he prepares for his first full winter test schedule aboard our MotoGP machine. Everyone in the team has shown outstanding commitment this year, and I hope that the six week break will provide them with an opportunity to recharge their batteries and come back next season more committed than ever. To everyone involved with the Kawasaki Racing Team this year, I'd like to say a big thank you.