Sepang : Suzuki - Race
John Hopkins raced his Rizla Suzuki GSV-R to a superb sixth place at today's Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang after being relegated to 14th on the first lap.
Hopkins started from eighth on the grid but was boxed in at the first corner and was
lucky to avoid an incident that saw the two Kawasaki team-mates collide. At the end of the lap one he had moved up to 11th and then set about the task of chasing the riders in front of him.
He picked them off one by one and made his way up to sixth, but he was unable to get into the top five as he ran out of laps whilst still closing fast. His sixth position carries on his run of top 10 results and closes the gap on the riders ahead of him in the Championship table.
Team-mate Chris Vermeulen also had a strong race but was hampered by starting from 16th on the grid after yesterday's qualifying practice was cancelled. He too passed many riders early on and finished in 11th, despite a lack of fitness at the end due to the illness he has suffered all weekend.
Today's race was watched by 43,182 fans that were treated to a fantastic battle between Valentino Rossi and Loris Capirossi for the victory. Reigning World Champion Rossi finally came out the victor on his works Yamaha.
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP now travels straight to Phillip Island in Australia for the next round of the 2006 MotoGP World Championship in seven days time, a race that will see Chris Vermeulen race in front of his home crowd for the first time as a factory Grand Prix rider.
"I wasn't feeling that great this morning – I think I've got a bit of a head cold that's going around the team.
By the time I got to the grid I felt great though, but I didn't feel that way half-way round lap one! There was a lot of mess going on and a lot of bumping. Shinya hit Randy and they took each other out and I was lucky to miss them – but that saved a couple of passes! From there I had to save the tyre and do the best race I could. There wasn't one lap where I wasn't riding my butt off and riding to the maximum – some more than others. The new spec engine allows me to make passes and it makes my job easier. Coming into the last couple of laps I just pushed hard and I knew I could get past Stoner. Unfortunately I didn't get past Kenny early enough as I think I could have got Sete as well. We have to take what we can get. I want that podium but it didn't happen here. We've got a few races left and we'll be going for it for sure."
"It was difficult weekend with the cancelled session and me not feeling 100% on Friday and Saturday. I was a bit better today but I tired towards the end of the race. The bike worked well as did the Bridgestone tyres. Full credit to my team, I didn't do a lot of laps in practice or give them much information but they gave me a very competitive bike. It was difficult starting in 16th but we came through and finished 11th and I did my fastest ever lap here in the race. Hopefully in a week I should be a lot fitter for my home GP – I'm really looking forward to that!"
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
"A great race by John but a frustrating weekend, that's how I would sum up Rizla Suzuki's Malaysian Grand Prix. If everything had come together for John over the weekend in terms of qualifying and a lot more luck on the first lap, he would have had a good chance of challenging for the podium. The new engine spec that Suzuki delivered here at Sepang has proved to be a lot more competitive and both riders commented that they are now able to stay in the slipstream of competitor's bikes and get by on the brakes. This is a big step for us and makes our race potential a lot better. So we owe a big thanks to Suzuki for its continued commitment in moving up the field."
"Despite the frustration of such a bad start John kept his head and rode an awesome race. Congratulations to him, Stuart and his crew on a good weekend's work. Chris has suffered physically all weekend and his condition cost him over the second half of the race but probably not as much as yesterday's cancelled qualifying session. Nonetheless he set his fastest times during the race, pushed hard and scored valuable points in his efforts to get into the top 10 in this year's Championship."
"The Team will now have a couple of quiet ones tonight before we head off to Australia and keep building on our increasing potential throughout the last few races of the season."