Shinya Nakano's hopes of a podium finish in today's Malaysian Grand Prix were cruelly shattered when Honda's Sete Gibernau collided with the 27-year-old Japanese ace going into the final turn, just two laps into the 21-lap race.
Desperate to make up places after colliding with Carlos Checa in the first turn, Gibernau misjudged his braking going into the tight left-hand hairpin and slammed into the side of Nakano's Ninja ZX-RR, forcing the Kawasaki pilot from the track and out of the race.
The fact that Gibernau's race also ended in the gravel trap was no consolation to Nakano, who had charged through to second place after a brilliant start from the second row of the grid, and was confident that he had a good enough package to finish on the podium.
At the time of his exit from the race Nakano was also easily ahead of Valentino Rossi and Carlos Checa, who finished second and third respectively.
It was little comfort, with the combination of the latest power-up ZX-RR motor and new generation Bridgestone tyres set to deliver Kawasaki's best result of the season.
The disappointment was compounded by a throttle problem, which forced Frenchman Olivier Jacque to retire his bike on lap four.
Making his first race start in eight weeks, Jacque weaved his way through a dramatic first corner tangle to settle comfortably in eleventh place on lap two, before problems slowed his bike.
Despite the setbacks of today's Sepang race, watched by 47,000 spectators, the Kawasaki team are looking forward to next weekend's Qatar Grand Prix.
Shinya Nakano: #56 - DNF
"I was already into the corner entry at the final turn when suddenly I saw Sete's front tyre; he missed his braking point and hit me. Sete apologised to me and said it was his mistake, but it's no real consolation and I'm bitterly disappointed, I was riding very well and everything was perfect, the ZX-RR was fast today and I really thought I had a chance at the podium - there was no doubt I could race with the front group. There was a lot of bumping at the first turn, also by Sete, but I was able to avoid this."
Olivier Jacque: #19 - DNF
"The officials held the red light for a long time at the start, but I got away well and was comfortable with my pace. The bike and tyres were feeling strong, but then on the third lap I had a problem with the throttle connection, it felt erratic and made the bike difficult to ride. I needed some racing laps today, so not finishing is a real shame."
Harald Eckl: Team Manager
"Shinya was very unlucky today, he got a great start and was racing well in third place. Sete looked desperate to make up positions in the early part of the race after colliding with Carlos Checa at the start, with the result that he misjudged his braking going into the last turn. It was a stupid mistake to make so early in the race and it is a real shame for the Kawasaki Racing Team, because today we had a real chance to make up for the disappointment of Motegi. Olivier was unlucky to fall victim to a mechanical problem, but I'm sure he'll bounce back in Qatar."
Source: Kawasaki Racing Team