The second of four days of testing at Sepang ended on a high note for the Kawasaki Racing Team, as new rider Shinya Nakano rocketed around the Malaysian circuit faster than he had during October's GP on a Yamaha M1.

Nakano set a best lap time of 2mins 5.175secs on his way to eighth place during that race - the only M1 rider who lapped quicker being Carlos Checa - but today the quiet Japanese put his Bridgestone shod green machine around the futuristic facility in a time of 2min 4.38secs, some two seconds faster than yesterday.

"We've made some positive steps today with the set-up of the bike. I'm starting to get used to the Ninja ZX-RR and I definitely felt a lot more comfortable on the bike," said Shinya. "The team have worked really hard to set the bike up to suit me and we've managed to evaluate two different frames and a couple of changes to the geometry of the bike during today's test session.

"I'm still getting a small amount of front end chatter, and we need to look at improving the stability of the bike under braking but, overall, the bike feels not so bad. I'm happy with my lap times today and I'm looking forward to further improvements tomorrow when we start engine and tyre testing," he added.

Team-mate Alex Hofmann also saw a dramatic improvement in his lap times, the 23-year-old German lapped consistently in the low 2min 05secs bracket during race distance runs designed to evaluate chassis changes, then dropped to a time of 2min 05.16secs during the final afternoon session.

That put the former test rider over a second faster than his previous best lap around the Sepang circuit.

"It was good to park up the old bike and start testing the new one today," smiled Alex. "Our main focus has been on the chassis; evaluating different frames and swinging arms to find the best combination and then running them over race distance to allow an accurate comparison.

"I'm pretty happy with what we've achieved today. I was able to circulate in the low 2min 05secs bracket during the race distance runs and I'm confident that there's still more to come," he claimed. "We've got a few more chassis tweaks we want to try tomorrow morning, before getting down to engine and tyre testing in the afternoon."

For team manager Harald Eckl, the improvements made by Nakano and Hofmann exceeded his expectations, but the former Grand Prix rider has no intention of allowing his riders to rest on their laurels and is already pushing them to find another half a second before the four day test concludes on Friday afternoon.

"It's been another day of positives for the team," said Eckl. "Both riders are working well together with their respective crews and the result of this is apparent on the track. It's enjoyable to see improvements in every area; the bike, the riders and the way that everyone is starting to gel as a team.

"If I'm honest, to have Shinya go faster than in the race here last year on only the second day of the test is more than we expected and, if both riders can find another half a second before we leave Sepang on Friday, then I'll be more than satisfied with our first test of 2004," he admitted.

Leading times, Sepang test - day two:

1. Max Biaggi ITA Camel Pramac Honda Pons 2min 2.96secs
2. Sete Gibernau SPA Telefonica Movistar Honda 2min 3.33secs
3. Makoto Tamada JPN Camel Pramac Honda Pons 2min 3.41secs
4. Tohru Ukawa JPN Honda Racing Corporation 2min 3.63secs
5. Colin Edwards USA Telefonica Movistar Honda 2min 3.72secs
6. Nicky Hayden SPA Repsol Honda 2min 3.77secs
7. Shinya Nakano JPN Kawasaki Racing Team 2min 4.38secs
8. John Hopkins USA Suzuki Grand Prix 2min 4.51secs
9. Kenny Roberts USA Suzuki Grand Prix 2min 5.43secs
10. Alex Hofmann GER Kawasaki Racing Team 2min 5.16secs
11. Andrew Pitt AUS Moriwaki Honda 2min 9.68secs

Comparative lap times - 2003 Malaysian Grand Prix:

Pole position: Valentino Rossi ITA Repsol Honda 2min 2.48secsFastest lap: Valentino Rossi ITA Repsol Honda 2min 3.822secs

 

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