The 2005 model Kawasaki Ninja ZX-RR made an impressive start to the MotoGP season, with Shinya Nakano finishing a brilliant fifth in today's Spanish Grand Prix.

From the start Nakano rode with his trademark mixture of style and aggression, and at the end of the 27-lap race he was the first rider using Bridgestone tyres to greet the chequered flag.

Joining Super Shinya in the points was his hard-riding German teammate Alex Hofmann, who finished 11th with a strong performance from the fourth row of the grid.

Today's race was the GP debut of Kawasaki's new big-bang motor. Still in the early stages of development, the 990cc four-cylinder engine displayed its future potential in today's windswept race at Jerez.

The latest generation of Bridgestone tyres, with stiffer case construction, also proved ideally suited to the conditions and the Ninja ZX-RR machines of Nakano and Hofmann.

Nakano settled into fifth place on lap one and for much of the first half of the race he rode alone, as he tagged the leading group containing eventual race winner Valentino Rossi.

Although pressured by Alex Barros late in the race, Nakano responded to chase the Brazilian home, and at the finish the Japanese rider was just 0.7s behind fourth place.

Hofmann charged into eighth briefly on the first lap, and then raced aggressively in a tight bunch that included double World Superbike champion Colin Edwards, Spaniard Carlos Checa and Max Biaggi.

The Kawasaki Racing Team will test at Jerez tomorrow (Monday) before moving on to Estoril for next weekend's Portuguese Grand Prix.

Shinya Nakano: #56 - Fifth

"This is a fantastic start to the season for Kawasaki's new big-bang motor; I'm obviously very happy. All the engineers at Kawasaki have done an excellent job, the engine was strong and there is more performance to come. Also my Bridgestone tyres were very good in these conditions. From the start I pushed very hard, but I just could not stay with the leading group, it was difficult to keep pace riding alone. I kept pushing until the finish and even when Barros overtook me I could follow his pace and I didn't lose any more positions."
Harald Eckl: Team Manager

"A very good start to the season with Shinya and Alex in the points, both with very consistent performances. This race has confirmed the performance potential of our new firing order motor and the Bridgestone tyres. Thanks to the work of everyone in the Kawasaki Racing Team we now have a very strong platform on which to build for the rest of the season."