John Hopkins made a strong return from injury by claiming eighth place on an evolution version of Kawasaki's 2008 Ninja ZX-RR, during Friday free practice at Brno.
Despite a fall in each of the one-hour sessions, Hopkins felt confident that the revised specification engine and chassis components have made a vast improvement. Hopper will now work with his crew to find a better front-end feeling, since it was a lack of feedback that caused the Anglo-American to crash in both sessions.
"The new engine parts have made a huge difference as the bike has more horsepower and improved power management," declared John, who took a best finish of fifth with the previous spec machine. "The chassis upgrade has helped us to turn better, especially into the corners, but we need to work on getting a little more feedback from the front-end."
"The overall review from practice is that these upgrades have made a big improvement; we just need to refine some areas further," stated Kawasaki technical manager Naoya Kaneko.
Hopkins had missed the last three races due to leg injuries sustained at Assen in late June.
"My knee is quite sore, especially when I have to put a lot of weight on it to change direction, but it's holding out well and I'm looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow to continue with what we've learnt today," he added.
But team-mate Anthony West was far less pleased, having been left 17th and last after struggling to change direction smoothly and complaining of a lack of feedback.
"This is not exactly how I'd hoped to make a return following our recent summer break," said the Australian. "The bike has plenty of grip, which is where we've suffered in the past, but I just can't get it to turn. Unfortunately this lack of stability means there is very little feedback from the machine when cornering and I don't have much confidence, which is reflected in our lap time.
"We've identified the areas where the problems are more significant and hopefully overnight we can find a solution to this. I think the weather will have a big part to play tomorrow, I just have to stay positive and hope we can turn it around in qualifying."
As West indicated, rain is forecast at the Czech circuit on Saturday, something that could play into his hands.