In Le Mans
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP travels back to Europe for the French Grand Prix, determined to build on the strong team performance in China last weekend.
John Hopkins scored his maiden podium at the Chinese circuit and will be pushing to continue with his early
season form that sees the Anglo-American in fifth place in the MotoGP World Championship. He qualified on the front row at the 4,180m long Le Mans track last year, and then led the race early on before crashing out when in a podium position. Hopkins will certainly be resolute in his quest to follow up his last race performance with one of an equal or better position.
Team-mate Chris Vermeulen is still carrying a slight injury from his crash during qualification in China, but is fit to race in France. He damaged a couple of toes in the incident but the tough Australian still showed his true racer spirit in Shanghai by finishing seventh – from 15th on the grid. Vermeulen finished 10th at last season's French GP – his first ever race there – and will certainly be looking to improve on that when the 28-lap race gets underway on Sunday 20th May at 14.00hrs local time (12.00hrs GMT).
Le Mans is the ultimate ‘stop-and-go' circuit on the MotoGP calendar and an optimum set-up for the many hard braking corners - that are such a feature at this physically demanding track - will be extremely important. The circuit also features one of the fastest corners in the world where riders will be seen going through the first turn almost flat out in sixth gear.
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP takes to the track on Friday for two hour-long free practice sessions and that will be followed by another hour on Saturday morning.
Grid positions for Sunday's race will be decided in the all-important qualifying hour on Saturday afternoon. Sunday's race is round five of the MotoGP World Championship and signals the start of the busiest period in the calendar with seven races taking place over the next 10 weeks.
“I really like the Le Mans circuit and it suits both the Suzuki and my riding style so I am hoping that I can follow up last week's podium with another. The Bridgestone tyres are working so well this year and they should give us the grip we need to be as competitive as we have been so far this season. The result in China took a huge weight off my shoulders and I'm looking forward to France – I really like the track and I think we can have “Le Monster” race!"
“My toes are still a bit sore from China, but that won't hold me back. I liked Le Mans last year – even though I didn't get much dry time there. I still need to get my qualifying right so I can give myself a chance of getting on that podium. The bike and tyres have been awesome this season and I am sure that they will be a big feature this weekend. The whole team are on a high and we need to keep that up as we embark on this long run of races over the next couple of months. There are a few tracks in there that should suit the Suzuki so we are hoping for some good results.”