Watched by almost 90,000 spectators, Kawasaki's Shinya Nakano brought his Ninja ZX-RR home in eleventh place in this afternoon's 23-lap Italian Grand Prix, after being outpaced by his factory rivals along Mugello's ultra-fast main straight.

The Kawasaki rider, who was penalised for a jump start two weeks ago in Le Mans, has been practicing his starts all weekend, for which he was rewarded today with a lightning launch from the second row of the grid that saw him slot into third place at the first turn.

But Nakano was unable to find an answer to the pace of his factory rivals, as they pulled out of his slipstream on the main straight to demote the Kawasaki rider back to sixth position, and into the clutches of the second group of riders.

The 28-year-old Japanese rider pushed as hard as he could to hold off his pursuers, but again lost places as they passed out of the slipstream along Mugello's 1100 metre front straight.

Nakano held onto tenth position for the majority of the race, but missed out on a top ten finish on the final lap, as John Hopkins slipstreamed past him to demote the Kawasaki rider to eleventh position at the line.

Randy de Puniet knew that starting from the sixth row of the grid would make today's race a difficult one, but the 25-year-old Frenchman made things even harder for himself by making an uncharacteristically bad start from sixteenth position.

After a hard first lap the Kawasaki pilot managed to fight his way back up the field to twelfth place, but then started to suffer pain in his lower back; a legacy of the first corner crash that brought his home Grand Prix in Le Mans to a premature conclusion two weeks ago.

De Puniet pushed on regardless, but was unable to counter a move from Colin Edwards in the final stages of the race and was forced to settle for thirteenth place at the chequered flag.

The Kawasaki Racing Team will stay on at Mugello, where Nakano, de Puniet and test and development rider, Olivier Jacque, will complete a one-day development test on Monday.

Shinya Nakano: 11th

"I've been practicing my starts this weekend, and it seems to have done the trick; today I got my best start of the season to jump from fifth to third place by the first corner. But that's where the problems started. I just couldn't stay with the leading group, they simply drove past me on the straight and they were gone. The same was true with the second group; I could run with them through the corners, but they'd just disappear when we reached the straight. I had no problems with the bike today, the tyres worked well throughout the race and I was pushing as hard as possible. But we still ended up outside the top ten, after John Hopkins passed me on the very last lap. I knew he was coming, but there is little you can do to defend your position when it's so easy to pass our bike on the straight. We know we need to find more top-end power, and we know we need to improve the driveability of the Ninja ZX-RR, and I think this can be seen quite clearly from today's result."
Harald Eckl: Team Principal

"This weekend we have a number of key people from KHI in Japan visiting the team, and I think that they will leave here with a better understanding of where our development efforts need to be focussed after today's race. Improvements in the driveability of the Ninja ZX-RR are important, but as Shinya showed today, we also need more top speed if we are not to concede positions on the straights at fast circuits like Mugello and Catalunya. Both riders rode a good race today, but the end result doesn't really do their efforts justice."