At Le Mans
John Hopkins will start from fifth place on the grid for tomorrow's French Grand Prix, following an impressive practice and qualifying performance today.
The Rizla Suzuki racer signalled his intentions in this morning's final free practice session by posting
the fastest time. He also led the way with the highest amount of laps, as the hard-working Anglo-American circulated the 4.180km French track 32 times.
During this afternoon's qualifying session Hopkins (1'34.102, 29 laps) led the leaderboard on several occasions again on race tyres - but was just unable to grab a front row start, missing out by only 0.243 seconds.
Chris Vermeulen (P12, 1'34.574, 26 laps) again made big steps on his Rizla Suzuki GSV-R during both of today's sessions. He was unfortunately blocked on his last qualifying lap a common feature on such tight tracks as Le Mans and was unable to get as good a starting position for tomorrow's race as he would have liked.
This afternoon's qualifying was held in warm and sunny - but also overcast - conditions. Track temperatures reached 32°C as Yamaha's Colin Edwards took pole position.
Tomorrow's 28-lap race is round five of the MotoGP World Championship and the race begins at 14.00hrs local time (12.00hrs GMT).
I'm really happy with the way the day has gone. We got two full sessions with a dry track and we were able to dial in the set-up and finalise what tyres we'll use tomorrow if it's dry! We did quite a long run this afternoon and got a good race pace going that felt really comfortable. I got a good rhythm and made a point of riding on my own and doing things my own way.
On the qualifiers I gave it my all and I am happy that we made it onto the front two rows because it's going to be really crucial to get a good start tomorrow. I need to be in the front pack from the start. Hopefully it will be dry for the race and we'll go out and just give them hell!
I was a little bit frustrated at the end of qualifying as I didn't get a clear lap on my last tyre. It's a bit annoying, but you get that on tight tracks and it's all part of racing. We made a lot of progress this morning and I was consistently faster lap-by-lap. I was within half-a-second of the fastest rider on race tyres all session this morning, and again this afternoon I was right up there. The bike has improved and my crew has worked really hard to get it right for here. Fourth row is not an ideal starting position, but I've had good results from further back than that! It's just a matter of getting my head down and catching those front guys.
Paul Denning Team Manager:
John has done a great job to secure a second row start, but fifth place doesn't fully reflect the work he has put in. The most encouraging thing is that his long runs on race tyres have been incredibly consistent and very fast. Anything is possible once you are in the front group and John's worked really well with his crew to get the Rizla Suzuki the best it can be around the Le Mans circuit. Hopefully it will pay off tomorrow!
Chris had some bad luck with traffic at the end of qualifying and as it shows that a very small gap makes a big difference. He has left himself quite a bit of work to do to get amongst the fastest riders, but if anyone can do it I'm sure it's him!