Catalunya : Suzuki - Day One
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP racers Chris Vermeulen and John Hopkins were both within touching distance of today's quickest time during free practice for the Gran Premi Cinzano De Catalunya.
Vermeulen (1'43.308, 40 laps) finished in fifth place
overall and Hopkins (1'43.421, 43 laps) was just a fraction of a second behind his team-mate in seventh. Vermeulen was able to concentrate on his riding style and getting the best settings for his Rizla Suzuki today, as he has previous knowledge of the Montmelò Circuit from a promising pre- season test.
Hopkins worked hard all day and completed long runs in the search for the most suitable Bridgestone tyre in preparation for Sunday's 25-lap race. He was consistently near the top of the leaderboard and will certainly be looking to achieve a good qualifying position tomorrow afternoon.
Today's afternoon session was disrupted by a heavy rain shower just before it commenced, but the track quickly dried out and dry but humid conditions – similar to the morning session - took over. World Champion Valentino Rossi set the quickest time with former World Champion Kenny Roberts Jr in second.
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP will have a further free practice session tomorrow morning before Vermeulen and Hopkins go all-out to get the best positions in the afternoon's only qualifying practice. Sunday's race is round seven of the MotoGP World Championship and the race will get underway at 14.00hrs local time (12.00hrs GMT).
Chris Vermeulen: "Obviously a better start to a Grand Prix weekend than we've had recently.
It's very hot and humid here, but we did lose a bit of track-time today to the rain – which is not unusual this year! Suzuki has brought some modifications here to Catalunya and that has helped a little bit for the long straight, but we are still a bit down on power compared to the other bikes. Bridgestone have got some great tyres here and the bike is working very well, it's very consistent and I can do a lot of laps at a similar time. Hopefully we can get it even better tomorrow and I can get a good qualifying position."
John Hopkins: "It's good to be back at Barcelona. We had a really good winter test here and everything fells pretty good today. Unfortunately we had another half and half session this afternoon and we lost a bit of time there – it seems like we haven't had a day at the races this year without a bit of rain! We had a lot of things to get through this afternoon but that was cut short. Overall though everything's just getting better and better for us and let's hope tomorrow is going to be dry because I think we have a good chance of running up front here this weekend."
Paul Denning – Team Manager: "It's been raining- which means we must be at a Grand Prix race! But apart from that small interruption it's been a productive day for both riders. As expected the start to Chris' weekend has been a lot more interesting, due to his previous knowledge of the track. This enabled him to get on with his own technique and the set-up of the Rizla Suzuki GSV-R. Both riders are very much in the thick of the action and are certainly competitive, especially so if we compare our performance with that of the other Bridgestone riders out there. I think we have a lot of work still to do to maximise the potential of the chassis and tyre combination to help our race durability. Everyone is working hard and we are hoping to be as competitive as we can for the rest of the weekend."