“I have just got to thank everyone at Suzuki”
John Hopkins ended his Suzuki Grand Prix career in style today at Valencia in Spain, by powering his Rizla Suzuki GSV-R to a fantastic third place at the final race of the season.
Starting from seventh on the grid,
the Anglo-American made a fantastic start and was in fourth position by the first corner. He then passed Nicky Hayden to move in to third on lap four and pulled away from the 2006 World Champion. Hopkins tried to chase down the two riders in front of him, but the gap was already too large and he had to settle for a race against the clock as he was never troubled by another rider for the remaining laps.
An emotional Hopkins crossed the line with his front wheel in the air to celebrate his best-ever result at Valencia, his fourth podium of the season and fourth position overall in the Riders' Championship.
Chris Vermeulen had a good start from the fourth row but got boxed in on the first lap and found himself in 12th place after the first lap. The aggressive nature of the Australian again came to the fore as he battled his way through the field to get up to sixth position. He finished the race just 0.058 behind fifth place and only just over a second off fourth. His 10 points were enough to secure him sixth place in the championship and also confirm Rizla Suzuki MotoGP the third position in the Team's Championship – missing out on second place by just one point.
Today's race was watched by 132,500 fans at trackside and the partisan Spanish crowd were treated to a victory by home hero Dani Pedrosa on his factory Honda, a result that secured him second in the championship behind today's runner-up Casey Stoner.
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP will now stay in Spain for a two-day test on Tuesday and Wednesday, before continuing with a further testing schedule through the close-season in readiness for the 2008 MotoGP World Championship that begins in Qatar in March.
“I have just got to thank everyone at Suzuki - that is my first and foremost task. To every member at Suzuki I want to pass on my ultimate thanks to them, Suzuki has given me my life in MotoGP and established my career and I just cannot show enough gratitude to them.
Today the tyres and the bike worked awesome and I just went for it from the beginning! I got a good start and then got around Nicky Hayden, but from there it was a pretty lonely race. I just had to push myself against the clock and make sure I pulled away from the riders behind me. I succeeded in that but it was very emotional on the last few laps with that comfort and I had to concentrate real hard to keep focused! It's a great result because my Mum, sister, fiancée and her family are all here today so it was an unbelievable feeling when I crossed the line – it was a great way to end the year. I would have liked to have put the bike on the top step for Rizla Suzuki and especially all my crew, but that's for Dani and the home fans today!
I just want to say thanks once again, it's been a fantastic five years and I've had a top time, now I just want to take it all in tonight and have a good time with the boys!”
“It was a tough race today with having to start from the fourth row. I got a bit boxed in on the first corner and it was hard to pass some of the guys as they were running quite wide on some parts of the track. Once it settled down I got into a rhythm and was able to pass them. The pace at the front was very hot and I felt like I had the speed to run with John, but he had a much better advantage after the first few laps. We finished sixth in the end and sixth in the championship, it's been a good season and we have improved a lot this year. We have a number of new things coming so it looks like being a very exciting future.
I'd like to thank everybody for their help this year especially my crew and Chief Technician Tom O'Kane, and congratulations to John on his third place today. It's been a great two years working with him and it will be sad to see him go. I wish him good luck next year and hope he does well – as long as we beat him!”
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“I am really happy with the end result today for the whole team, and especially for John who has been loyal, hard working and has always given 100% during his five seasons with Suzuki. During the last two years we have given him massively improved equipment and that has enabled him to take big steps forward. Today he gave everything for us and thoroughly deserved his podium, and to finish his Suzuki career on a high. On behalf of the whole team I would like to thank him for some great times on and off the track and we all wish him well in the future – he'll certainly be missed!
Chris's potential was to fight with John for a podium position, but it's difficult to come from 12th on the first lap and get past the quality of riders that are out there on this type of circuit. However, as always he raced aggressively and maintained lap-times right till the end, and only missed fourth place by a second.
Suzuki did not win the World Championship this season, but we have to put that into context with the starting point from 2005 and 2006 and I believe Rizla Suzuki as a team, Suzuki as a factory and all Suzuki fans worldwide can be proud of our achievements. We are the only manufacturer not to suffer a mechanical breakdown in any race this year, both riders finished in the top-six of the championship and we missed second in the team's championship by only one point. This is a solid position to move forward from and I want to thank every single person involved in the project for their commitment, hard work and efforts!”