The latest instalment in character building season for Kawasaki saw team-mates John Hopkins and Anthony West battle rear traction problems on their way to eleventh and twelfth places in Sunday's sweltering Malaysian Grand Prix.

Hopkins, who had qualified tenth, spent much of the race trying to get the better of Honda LCR's Randy de Puniet and Rizla Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen, eventually crossing the finish line two seconds behind the Frenchman.

"I got away from the start pretty well, but then I got pushed out wide a couple of times in the first lap, so I didn't manage to make up as many places as I was hoping for," said John. "Initially the lap times were good, but as soon as the rear tyre started to go off I began having problems.

"We improved confidence in the front this weekend, so I was able to close right onto the back of Vermeulen into the turns, but I was losing ground on the exit every time. The bike was just spinning off the edge of the rear tyre on the throttle, and it continued spinning once you'd picked it up onto the fat part of the tyre.

"With five laps to go the rear grip dropped off even more, giving me no chance of catching de Puniet and Vermeulen before the end. Rear traction has been a consistent issue this season, and it's an area that we need to look at very closely if we're to fully understand the cause, and ensure that we don't transfer the same problem to the 2009 bike.

"The result today was disappointing, because I really thought it was possible to get into the top ten. Hopefully we can end our season with a better result next weekend in Valencia."

Whilst Hopkins dropped one place from his qualifying position, West at least gained one position from 13th on the grid - although the Australian, who will race in World Supersport next season, hit wheelspin problems even earlier than Hopkins.

"The start went pretty well, but then I got pushed out real wide in the first turn and lost all the places I'd made up at the start. Things weren't too bad for the first part of the race; the rear was still spinning up out of the corners, but at least there was some drive. But as the rear tyre started to go off I started having problems going into the turn," said West.

"It was a really strange feeling; the rear would break traction as I turned in off the throttle. It was worst at the downhill turn two where it really unsettled the bike on entry, but I could feel it everywhere to differing degrees. It's quite hard to put in consistent lap times when you're lacking rear grip on both corner entry and exit, but I just got my head down and did the best I could.

"Hopefully we can come up with some improvements for the season finale next weekend, as I'd really like to end my time at Kawasaki with a good result," he added.

Competition manager Michael Bartholemy insists that Kawasaki has a 'clear idea' regarding the cause of the traction problems, although a solution won't be seen until 2009.

"This wasn't the result we were looking for this weekend, but it is still a step forward compared to Phillip Island," began Bartholemy. "We know that with better rear traction both riders would be a lot closer to the front of the race, and we have made improvements in this area, but there is clearly still more work to do.

"The important thing is that our engineers have a clear idea of the causes, so I'm confident that a solution will be found. But, with only one race left this season, it may be that, realistically, we won't see the benefits of the work done this season until Kawasaki roll out the all-new 2009 bike in February.

"In the meantime, I hope that we can go out on a high with two good results from John and Anthony next weekend in Valencia. They both deserve it after all their hard work this year," he concluded

The Valencia season finale takes place this weekend.



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