Today's qualifying practice at Sepang ended with Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet heading up the second row with his team mate, Anthony West right behind him on the grid for tomorrow's Malaysian Grand Prix.
In the afternoon's nail-biting session, the Frenchman crashed out, rode his spare bike for much of the allocated hour, then rode home his hastily-repaired, primary Ninja ZX-RR to fourth place on the leader board in the very final moments. He clocked his best qualifying time of 2'02.107 with a top speed of 296.5kmh, just behind Marco Melandri who snatched the last place on the front row in the closing seconds by the tiniest margin of 0.163 seconds.
De Puniet began the day with another scorching free practice, which saw him coming second on the results sheets with a time of 2'02.534, just 0.243 behind Casey Stoner. Having notched up such consistently good lap times on race tyres throughout all sessions, de Puniet feels confident for tomorrow's 21-lap race.It was an electrifying session, which resulted in West's best qualifying position yet in MotoGP. The 26-year-old Australian enjoyed provisional pole after putting in his best lap time of 2'02.202 on his first qualifying tyre. This was eventually stolen from him but he maintained a front row spot until the very last second, when Melandri and de Puniet pushed him back to fifth in an exciting climax.
But West is positive: he, like his team mate, has been having an excellent weekend at Sepang so far. The final practice combined times clocked him as fifth fastest in the field of riders and a long run on race tyres saw him show remarkable consistency, culminating in a best time of 2'02.627.
Watching tomorrow's race will be the President of Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd, Mr Tadaharu Ohashi, who is currently visiting Malaysia on business, and the President of Kawasaki's Consumer Products and Machinery Company, Mr Shinichi Tamba. De Puniet and West will be particularly keen to do well in front of the two men who have done so much in support of Kawasaki's MotoGP project this year.