Sepang : Suzuki - Day 1
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP racer John Hopkins recorded the fourth fastest time during today's free practice sessions at the Sepang International Circuit, in preparation for Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.
Hopkins (P4, 41 laps) had shown good pace during
this morning's session, finishing fifth quickest. The Anglo-American star stepped up a gear in the afternoon to clock a time of 2'02.710. His fastest lap was also well inside the current lap record and bodes well for the rest of the weekend.
Chris Vermeulen (P14, 2'03.432, 36 laps) is suffering with a head cold that was aggravated by the high humidity at Sepang and forced him to end the afternoon session early. The rookie Australian worked hard with his crew on set-up as he battled against the illness. By the end of the second session he had bettered his morning time by well over a second and is confident of making a recovery for tomorrow.
Today's sessions were held in dry and warm conditions with track temperatures reaching 45°C. Loris Capirossi on his Bridgestone shod Ducati set the quickest time.
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP has one more practice session tomorrow morning followed by the important afternoon qualifying session. Sunday's 21-lap race gets underway at 15.00hrs local time (07.00hrs GMT).
John Hopkins: "Basically this morning went pretty well. It was good to get back out there and lay some rubber down. I like this track quite a lot and it was good to get some laps in. We have some new parts from Suzuki and they seemed to work well and we were also able to get well on with the tyre test ready for Sunday. This afternoon was completely different though. I had a malfunction with my drink bottle that is fitted inside my race suit and ended up with a sticky energy drink all over me.
It cost us a bit of time as I tried to fix it myself out on track and I lost a few laps – but you have to try out these things! That left me a bit unhappy - we never really got into a rhythm and didn't get a lot of work done. It was almost like having a rain session! But we still ended up fourth so it shows we are on the pace and should do pretty good here. Tomorrow we will try to continue where we left off this morning and keep working hard and find the best tyre for the race."
Chris Vermeulen: "Today was quite hard work as I have been suffering with a cold and it really sapped my energy. I have visited the clinic and had some treatment and hopefully I can shake it off overnight. We were only 0.9 of a second off the top three and that lap was not a difficult one to do, so I know we are capable of a better time and we will be pushing as hard as we can tomorrow to achieve better."
Paul Denning – Team Manager: "It's been a difficult but promising first day for the team. Bridgestone looks to be repeating the promise shown here 12 months ago and in particular our front tyre durability is much improved from then, and from the winter tests. Chris struggled to find his rhythm and a good setting for the first session and a half, but as he got himself dialed into the circuit and Tom got the bike set-up working well, his times became a lot more competitive later on. Unfortunately he has a head cold which is affecting his performance and his main focus is now to get that cleared up for tomorrow. John's been quick all day but he is still not happy with his bike so that is encouraging for him improving further tomorrow. He still needs to clear up a few settings issues that are restricting him and I believe he can go a lot better over the weekend. The fastest two guys out there seem to have a lot of pace - let's hope we can close the gap tomorrow!"