On first day of practice in China
The ever improving Rizla Suzuki rider John Hopkins stepped up the pace in the second MotoGP free practice session today at the Sinopec Great Wall Lubricants Grand Prix of China.
The 23 year-old Anglo-American appears to be finding
form in his sixth MotoGP season with a solid Suzuki 800cc package assisting his efforts, despite his pre-season accident and the slight crash he suffered in Jerez which saw him finish the race last.
Battling through the pain barrier with an injured wrist from his pre-season mishap Hopkins bravely equalled his best ever finish of fourth place, first achieved in China last year, in this season's opening Grand Prix in Qatar.
Having gained further points in Turkey crossing the line sixth, the Suzuki rider is desperate for his first rostrum finish and the early signs are looking good for him to finally break his podium duck this weekend.
Having been second quickest in the first free practice session in Shanghai earlier today ‘Hopper' topped the timesheets in the afternoon outing lapping in 2'01''204, a time 0.399s faster than his morning best and 0.099s quicker than his closest rival in the second session, Honda Gresini's Marco Melandri.
Dani Pedrosa allayed any fears that he could be struggling with injuries picked up in his Turkish crash to record the third fastest time of the session, just 0.129s behind Hopkins, while the Spaniard's Repsol Honda colleague Nicky Hayden repeated his morning success as the fourth fastest rider.
Of course World Champion Hayden would be hoping to top the timesheets as he defends his title, but his pace in China so far has been encouraging after a nightmare start to the season.
Loris Capirossi was the fifth fastest rider of the afternoon run-out while his Ducati Marlboro colleague Casey Stoner was eighth quickest but only 0.
256s off Hopkins pace, having been the fastest in the opening session.
Sandwiched in between the Ducati pair were Fiat Yamaha duo Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards – who are both aiming to put their Turkish nightmares behind them in Shanghai – meaning that there were an equal amount of Bridgestone and Michelin riders in the top eight.
Meanwhile, the fastest 14 riders were all within one second of Hopkins hot lap, as the 800cc era's competitiveness was highlighted yet again in a good sign for Sunday's race.
One man who may not be taking any further part in the Grand Prix though is Olivier Jacque who following his costly crash in Turkey had another accident in today's second free practice session.
The Frenchman crashed having just set his fastest time of the outing on his 15th lap of the Chinese circuit, and suffered an arm injury which required him to be rushed to hospital for stitches.
DORNA / CAPSIS International