As Vermeulen struggles
Loris Capirossi marked his debut with the Rizla Suzuki MotoGP team by claiming a hard-earned eighth position at the first race of the season in Qatar.
Starting from 13th on the grid, Capirossi fought his way through the field to eighth on lap
five, maintaining that position for the rest of the 22-lap race. Capirossi came under heavy pressure in the final laps from Randy de Puniet, but the 34-year-old Italian used all his experience to fight off the challenge and preserve his place.
Chris Vermeulen made a good start to the first-ever night race and improved on his grid position early on, but a suspected fault with his front tyre caused the Australian to pit. After rejoining the race with a new front tyre fitted, he tried to make up places to score valuable championship points, but finished the race just outside the scoring positions in 17th place. Today's race was the first held under floodlights and the honour of being the first rider to win a Grand Prix on asphalt at night went to reigning World Champion Casey Stoner on his factory Ducati.
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP now moves back to Europe for the second round of the season on Sunday 30th March, to be held at Jerez in Spain.
Loris Capirossi :
“For sure I am not happy because our target is to fight for the podium or victories, and at the moment we are a bit off that. We tried to do our best in the race and compared to the test and the practices here this week we certainly went a little bit better in the race. We still have to continue to improve our entire package so we can be running at the front. I really want to thank my team because they gave me a good opportunity to try my best this weekend with the bike they prepared for me.
We now have another 17 races left and we can certainly improve a lot in them!”
Chris Vermeulen :
“Not a great start to the season! I made a good start and got off the line well. I was in a good position, but I had an issue with the front tyre right from the first lap. It just didn't work and after five laps it was completely destroyed, so I had to come in and get a new one fitted. We will have to look at it with Bridgestone and find out why it happened. After we replaced the tyre – with the same spec one – I went back out and just tried to stay out of everyone's way. I ended up following Loris in his battle with de Puniet and I was comfortable doing those lap-times at the end when I had a decent front tyre in. It's a shame really, and although I don't think we had the pace to run with the front group I felt like I could have scored a lot more points than we have now.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager :
“Firstly we have to say that it was a proud moment for Suzuki and the team to see Loris make his first start in a Grand Prix on the GSV-R. It is no secret that we had a difficult test here a week ago and Loris's 13th position on the grid didn't make a top result easy. It was great to see him push so hard and fight his way through - unfortunately by the time he got to eighth position the lead group had gone and there was nothing more he could do other than maintain his position. He apologised to the team after the race for the result, but there was no need to do so – he gave his maximum and I think we will have many better days than this one.”
“As for Chris we are all disappointed, so much so that it is difficult to put into words because without question he has the ability to challenge at the front. He made a great start and a good first lap to get himself into a good position, but suffered a very unusual problem with the front tyre that made the bike almost unrideable. He handled himself professionally and I'd like to thank him for getting back out out there in case there were any points to be had.”
“We now move to Jerez in a better frame of mind and in a better starting position than we were a week ago. We are certainly looking forward to building on our potential from there on!”