As Akiyoshi impresses
John Hopkins was the fastest of the trio of Rizla Suzuki MotoGP racers during today's free practice sessions at Motegi in preparation for Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix, as he recorded the fourth quickest time of the day.
Hopkins (1'48.361, 45
laps) looked fast and settled right from the start of the day and topped the leaderboard during both hour-long sessions. The confident Anglo-American is pleased with the progress he and his team have made and is sure there is still more to come from both himself and his Rizla Suzuki GSV-R tomorrow.
Team Test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi (1'48.457, 41 laps) produced a fantastic performance to clock the sixth fastest time and leave some much more experienced and famous riders in his wake. Appearing in only his third GP event Akiyoshi performed well on his ‘home' circuit and showed that all the laps spent testing the 800cc GSV-R has proved very useful to him in a racing environment.
Chris Vermeulen (P18, 1'49.555, 45 laps) struggled to find a smooth rhythm today around the 4.8km Motegi circuit. He will be working hard into the evening with his Crew Chief to try to rectify any details that they believe will help Vermeulen find the time to move up the timesheets and into a competitive position.
Today's practice was held in sunny and very hot conditions with air temperatures in the mid-30s and the track surface reaching over 50°C. Dani Pedrosa on his factory Honda set the best time of the day.
The three Rizla Suzuki men have another free practice session on Saturday morning which will be followed by an hour of qualifying in the afternoon. Sunday's race is round 15 of the MotoGP World Championship and the action gets underway at 14.00hrs local time (05.
“The day went pretty good straight away as the Bridgestone tyres worked really well and so did the Suzuki. We've had a play around with a couple of things including the suspension, but we haven't had to do a whole lot of set up because it all seemed to work well right out of the box. We'll try a couple of things tomorrow and test the durability of one of the best tyres from today, but all-in-all we're in pretty good shape and everything seems to be going well.”
“I am very pleased with my position and maybe quite surprised. It is good to be able to race the GSV-R after so much testing this year. I think I can go a bit quicker now and will be trying to get a good grid position tomorrow to help me for the race.”
“It has not been a great day today! We struggled with some problems with the bike this morning which the mechanics sorted out very quickly between the sessions. This afternoon it felt like my first session really because anything I did this morning was a bit of a waste. We did get things going and made some progress in the session but I am disappointed with the lap-time. At the end I only really got one flying lap with the set-up that I liked and tomorrow we need to make a lot of progress so we can move up the order a bit.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“An encouraging day's work for John and his crew and a tremendous performance by Akiyoshi! He and Nobuatsu Aoki have been responsible for some of the big improvements to the GSV-R this year and it's good to see him wringing the bike's neck rather than having to worry about the details of testing – and I am sure his is really enjoying that as well!
Chris's position isn't good and there is a lot of work to do overnight to make sure that he comes out in the morning swinging and is able to show his full potential.”