The second day of the GMC Australian Grand Prix finished with qualifying practice this afternoon, which saw Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet claim a second row start and Anthony West, 10th spot on the grid for tomorrow's race.
De Puniet completed 25 laps in qualifying and succeeded in running a staggering 1'30.713 lap on race tyres: bearing in mind Casey Stoner's leading lap, on combined times, of all three earlier practices was 1'31.132, this bodes very well for the 26-year-old Frenchman.
He put in his best lap on the first of his three Bridgestone qualifying tyres, with a time of 1'30.110, putting him on the second row behind Nicky Hayden and Loris Capirossi and just 0.909 seconds behind pole sitter, Dani Pedrosa. He had hoped for an even better position but, as always, it's the race that counts and de Puniet's feeling justifiably confident. At the last round at Motegi, in Japan, he enjoyed the taste of success on the second step of the podium and will be hoping for more of the same in Australia tomorrow.
Anthony West has also been busy perfecting his set up and providing his crew with the feedback necessary to eliminate some rear wheel spin he's been suffering during the weekend so far. By the end of the day, he 26-year-old was happy with improvements and is looking forward to Sunday's 27-lap battle.
The Australian, currently enjoying the support of his fellow countrymen at his home round, put in his strongest time on the second of his three qualifiers. With his 800cc Ninja ZX-RR working better than ever, he clocked 1'30.649, putting him at the front of the fourth row. Unfortunately, his final run suffered as a result of a loss of traction at the front, which threatened to spit him off: his foot slipped off the peg and broke the rear fender in the process, frustrating West's efforts to move further up the grid.
Settling for tenth on the start line doesn't come easily to West, who is particularly keen to do well in front of his Australian fans. Meanwhile, de Puniet's second row start will ensure both Kawasaki riders will be as determined as ever to ride a competitive race and gain some more valuable championship points, both for themselves and for the team.
Randy de Puniet, "I'm a little bit disappointed because even just on race tyres, I was very fast. Unfortunately I came across some traffic in T2 on my last run out on qualifiers, and lost some time, so it was impossible to improve my position on the grid. But most importantly we've got a good race setting and tyre for tomorrow; that's why I feel confident. If Anthony and I can fight in the top eight, that would be great for all of us. I like this track, and the bike's working well, so I really hope I can repeat the success of Japan tomorrow."
Anthony West, "I thought I was going to be able to put in a faster time on my last qualifying tyre but I nearly lost the front at turn 10. My foot came off the peg as I was trying to save it and nearly went in to the back wheel. It smashed the rear mudguard though, so I was just lucky to stay on the bike. One of those near misses... Anyway, the set up's looking pretty good now: I did about ten laps on a race tyre, and felt quite strong, so as long as no-one else goes too fast it'll be alright!