Hopkins ‘reasonably happy' with third row
An agreeably warm and sunny Jerez today hosted the qualifying session for the second round of the 2008 MotoGP World Championship and the afternoon kept a significant crowd of race fans, gathered for the event, on the edge of their
Kawasaki's John Hopkins managed to take his Ninja ZX-RR to ninth on the grid with a very respectable time of 1'39.439, just over a second off pole man, Jorge Lorenzo's extraordinary record-breaking lap.
It was a great showing for Hopkins, who yesterday crashed at the end of the fast back straight. He and his crew had been forced to play catch-up in tyre testing after the reduced amount of laps the Anglo-American had been able to do at the IRTA test at Jerez in February, due to injury.
Hopkins is the third of only three Bridgestone-shod riders in the top ten of the time sheets, with current world champion, Casey Stoner, and Valentino Rossi ahead of him, after Michelin appeared to dominate somewhat. However, only Sunday's race will reveal whether that dominance will extend from qualifying tyres to race tyres.
"I'm reasonably happy with today as we're on the third row”, he said. “To be honest, the fastest qualifying lap we did wasn't the best as I lost the front going into one of the long fast right turns, so I know we had the potential to go even quicker. I ended up scraping my elbow but I managed to pick the bike up and get the power down to make a fairly decent lap time. The tyre choice for the race is a bit of a gamble, as we've only had a few laps on it due to the lack of testing, but I'm confident that with Bridgestone's help we have made a good decision.
The machine set-up feels good and my injury is much better so tomorrow we have to get away from the start well and fight for a good finish."
During yesterday's sessions, Hopkins' team mate, Anthony West, had problems with stability in the circuit's numerous heavy braking zones and with traction coming out of the corners. By the end of the day, his crew chief, Juan Martinez, indicated that some changes would be made to the set up before the start of today's practice.
Consequently, West had taken a large chunk out of his best time from yesterday by only his third lap of the qualifying session but then went on to massively reduce even that, eventually putting in a time of 1'40.088 on his second to last lap of the day, to claim 15th position on the grid.
"The qualifying session has given us some inspiration as we've managed to slash our lap times by a huge amount. I am disappointed not to be further up the grid, and the position isn't quite where we would like to be, but at least we are making progress”, explained the Australian. “The qualifying tyre gave me a lot of confidence as the machine was much more stable, we could turn into the corners better and this enabled us to achieve a reasonable lap time. The rest of the field is within our grasp now and although it's going to be very tough out there tomorrow, I'm looking forward to racing."
The qualifying hour was certainly a nail-biting one. Premier class rookie, Lorenzo, repeatedly bettered his own record-breaking times to finally settle for a staggering 1'38.189 lap, to the amazement of onlookers.
Further entertainment was also supplied by Colin Edwards. After losing control of his Yamaha, the American, who looked absolutely certain to run off the track in a haze of gravel, picked the bike up with his knee, kept it on the circuit and managed to wave in jubilation to the ecstatic crowd in one, flowing manoeuvre. And Kawasaki's own John Hopkins used an elbow to stablise the ZX-RR in a scary moment!
Tomorrow's 27-lap Spanish Grand Prix starts at 14.00 hours, local time.