“The guys gave it their best shot”
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP racer John Hopkins will start his final race with the Suzuki Factory Team from the front of the third row of the grid tomorrow, after qualifying in seventh place at Valencia this afternoon.
26 laps) will be looking for one his normal good starts as he sets off on his 81st Grand Prix in Suzuki colours. The Anglo-American star looked comfortable in the early part of this afternoon's qualifying whilst still using race tyres, and was running a podium position pace. Hopkins worked hard with his crew and Bridgestone to select the best available tyres for tomorrow's 30-lap race and is confident of a good finish.
Chris Vermeulen (P10, 1'32.617, 31 laps) will have a slightly tougher job than Hopkins at tomorrow's start, as he will begin the race from the middle of the fourth row. Suzuki's Australian racer completed a long test on race tyres during this afternoon's session and was very pleased with the results. He will also be looking for a good start as the 4,005m long Spanish circuit is notably difficult to pass on.
Today's qualifying was staged in warm and dry conditions with temperatures in the 20's. Pole position was taken by Spaniard Dani Pedrosa on his factory Honda.
Tomorrow's race is the 18th and final round of what has been the longest premier motorcycle championship in history, and the race that gets underway at 14.00hrs local time (13.00hrs GMT) will also be the 100th race since the start of the MotoGP era and the introduction of the four-stroke regulations in 2002.
“I'd have liked to have at least been on the second row, but I'm not too unhappy with where we have qualified. It was definitely our best session of the weekend this afternoon, and we have made some improvements to the machine. We worked hard with Bridgestone to find a consistent tyre to use in the race and we are really happy with what we have got. The crew have done an excellent job again this weekend to get the bike prepared and I feel really good as well, so now it's time to get a good start tomorrow and end my Suzuki career on a high. I am going for that podium – that's the ultimate plan!”
“It was quite a difficult session as I didn't really get on with the qualifying tyres today. We're on the fourth row and that's going to be tough here as it's a difficult track to pass on. At the start of the afternoon I did a 15-lap run on race tyres, the lap times were very consistent and the tyre showed good durability, so we think we will be strong right to the end of tomorrow's race.
The bike is working well, so now it's down to me getting away from the line and using my elbows to push my way through in turn one!”
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“The guys gave it their best shot this afternoon, but the positions didn't quite end up being what we were looking for. Qualifying changes the game significantly in terms of the potential of different riders over a one-lap dash, but the good news for us is that Chris and John both found extra pace on race tyres this afternoon. Chris completed a long run on his chosen race tyre and was able to maintain good lap-times right to the end and John was right on podium pace with his race tyre lap-times.
We shouldn't take it for granted, but we can be confident that John will get away from the line as well as he always does and try to fight with front group immediately. All of us in the team, at Suzuki and at Rizla are 100% behind John for his final Grand Prix with us. Chris has a slightly harder job from the fourth row but he is pumped-up and we all believe he can do really well tomorrow!”