Kawasaki riders Alex Hofmann and Shinya Nakano qualified a disappointing twelfth and fourteenth respectively for the team's home Japanese Grand Prix - and admit they now face a tough race on the difficult-to-pass Motegi track.

Both Nakano and Hofmann used the standard specification Ninja ZX-RR motor in today's practice and qualifying, as they will for tomorrow's race. The upgraded motor, which was tested by Nakano yesterday, will undergo further evaluation and development before making its race debut.

With nine-minutes of the session remaining, Hofmann had put his green machine into the top ten, but slipped to 12th in the final burst of fast lap times - the German's only consolation being that he was just 0.031secs slower than world champion Valentino Rossi, whom he will start beside tomorrow.

"My qualifying position is not what I was looking for at Kawasaki's home race, but then I haven't been as close to Valentino Rossi on the grid before!" said Alex. "It is not easy for us, we are still giving away too much top speed to our rivals, so we just have to fight with what we have at the moment.

"Overall I have a good rhythm on the bike, but it will be tough in the race. I did my qualifying time alone when there were a lot of guys turning this into a 125 session, waiting for a slipstream and trying to follow other riders," he added.

Meanwhile, with 20-minutes to go, Nakano was the fastest rider on the track and 0.4secs inside provisional pole after two sectors - but then suffered a smoky engine failure. The Japanese could not improve his time after switching to his spare machine and slipped down to fourteenth as a result.

"I am very upset about this situation," fumed Nakano, who finished third at Motegi last year. "It is very difficult to overtake here and to be starting on the fifth row makes my job tomorrow all the more difficult."

"I'm a little bit disappointed and, for sure, Shinya is a little angry," confessed technical manager Ichiro Yoda. "Shinya did some fast laps but then he had an engine problem, perhaps some internal parts, we need to check. Shinya used the standard ZX-RR motor today, we need to modify and understand the new motor before we race it."

The two other Bridgestone teams, Ducati and Suzuki, both put one of their riders on the front row today.



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