In Rizla Suzuki's private battle
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP racers Chris Vermeulen and John Hopkins had a race-long battle during today's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang, with Vermeulen just beating his team-mate to the line.
Both riders got good starts and moved up through
the field in the early stages of the 21-lap race. By lap-four they were neck-and-neck and continued to trade positions for the next few laps as they passed each other many times. Hopkins made an attempt to pass Vermeulen on the last lap for seventh place, but the Australian held him off to claim the extra point and close the gap in championship on his Suzuki rival to just four points with one race remaining.
Team Test Rider Nobuatsu Aoki rode a great race on the prototype 2008 version of the GSV-R. Starting from 19th on the grid he got a good start and was up to 15th at the end of the first lap. He chased down Grand Prix regulars in front of him on proven race machines and passed them, before bringing his bike home in 13th for valuable points in the teams' championship.
Today's race was watched by 37,435 fans in sunny conditions of over 30°C, and they witnessed Casey Stoner win his 10th Grand Prix of the season on his Bridgestone-shod Ducati.
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP will stay in Sepang for a day's testing tomorrow, when all three riders will be joined by recently crowned AMA Superbike Champion Ben Spies, who will be having his first outing on a Grand Prix bike.
The final round of the 2007 MotoGP season is in two week's time at Valencia in Spain on Sunday 4th November.
“It was a tough race and I am totally exhausted! I got in a little battle with a few guys at the start, but John and myself both made little mistakes and we dropped back a couple of spots. I also had a bit of a vibration issue with the bike under acceleration and it took me a while to figure out how to ride fast with that. I just got my head down and pushed as hard as I could and then I saw on my pit-board that it was plus-zero with John and it stayed that way for the whole race! We passed each other a number of times and I eventually got in front and held him off. It was good to beat him as it closes the gap in the championship, but we weren't near the podium and we still have a lot of work to do. We are here tomorrow for a further test and I am sure we can work out a lot of stuff.”
“Going in to today's race we had pretty high hopes with the way the bike and tyres were working this weekend, but it just didn't really happen for us. I got off the line pretty well and through turn one and then I made a few mistakes in the first few laps and even ran off the track at one time. From then on it was just a Rizla Suzuki battle with me and Chris going back-and-forth. It was good to race with him and it was a bit of fun, but I wish we had been fighting for one-and-two or two-and-three, but it was not to be! I have got to say hats off to all my mechanics this weekend they have been working really hard and sweating their butts off! We now have to go to Valencia and claw our way back into fourth place in the championship at the last race of the year.”
“First of all I would like to say thanks to all of my guys for their help this weekend, but especially thanks to Mr Oonishi who decided to bring the prototype machine here for me to ride and I am very honoured and grateful to him for that. Until yesterday we had many small problems with the bike but the mechanics and engineers worked so hard last night and today the bike performed perfect! For a shakedown race this was a good start and in two weeks time we will hand the bike over to the Grand Prix team, but until then we will try to improve it a little bit more. We will also keep working on it in the winter tests so it will be right when next season comes. Once again I would like to show my appreciation to everybody involved this weekend.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“These were the same positions for the team this weekend as they were at Phillip Island last Sunday, but whilst the Australian result was quite positive this was a little disappointing. We felt coming here that the whole package was capable of a podium finish and even going into race-day today that was very much our target, but it didn't quite work out like that. It was not as if we were terrible, but we just seemed to lack that extra half to three-quarters-of-a-second a lap that we needed to run the pace of the fastest riders.
Nobu san did a great job on the prototype bike, beating quite a few of the MotoGP regulars and scoring decent points. I would like to thank him for his efforts over the course of the weekend.
It is a now three-way fight for fourth in the championship between, John, Chris and Melandri and we'll go to the final race in Valencia hoping that one of our guys can achieve that.”