Hopkins salvages sixth
Suzuki rider John Hopkins was able to salvage a fine sixth place result in Estoril this afternoon after a troublesome weekend for Bridgestone in Portugal.
The lack of grip that has blighted Bridgestone riders all weekend continued into today's
race which, coupled with tyre longevity issues over the full 28-lap race distance, made the Portuguese GP one of disappointment for the Japanese tyre manufacturer.
An emotionally-charged race saw Bridgestone-shod Kawasaki rider Shinya Nakano escape unharmed from a first lap accident and Ducati's Sete Gibernau also retire in the early stages of the race following an incident with Casey Stoner on lap two. Of the four remaining Bridgestone riders it was Hopkins who led the charge in difficult conditions to claim his sixth top six finish of the season, setting the fourth quickest lap of the race.
His team-mate and Estoril rookie Chris Vermeulen finished in ninth position, just one place ahead of Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet who scored his first top ten result of the season.
All Bridgestone teams ran with the same harder rear tyre compound with the only difference being Ducati who used an alternate shape rear in the race after struggling more than the other Bridgestone teams in qualifying yesterday.
Unfortunately it was a gamble that did not pay off for the Italian team with Loris Capirossi crossing the chequered flag in twelfth place 20s behind Hopkins' Suzuki.
John Hopkins – Suzuki – 6th Place:
“I didn't get off the line very well. The clutch was dragging a bit and I had to hold the brake on to stop the bike moving and then the red light went out – so that screwed up my start really. From the first lap on I had to be on a mission to make some passes. We didn't have the best grip we have ever had, but we seemed to make it work and my crew worked their butts off this weekend. Bridgestone also worked hard here to try and give us that bit extra. I can't complain at sixth place, it is well inside the top ten which is where I want to be. We are looking good for a top ten place over the season and I really want to get some good points at Valencia and finish the season strong.
Hiroshi Yamada - Bridgestone Motorsport - Manager Motorcycle Racing:
“I'd like to congratulate the Suzuki team on a good job in difficult circumstances this weekend. John rode a committed race to take sixth position which, even considering the five retirements from the race, is a good result. Chris and Randy too turned their lower qualifying positions into solid top ten results after 28 tough laps this afternoon. We are the first to admit that we have struggled a lot here at Estoril this weekend. The difficulties we have faced today have been the same as we have encountered all weekend with a lack of grip at this circuit, which has certainly not been helped by the new asphalt in areas around the track. We tried a variety of options to get our three teams in the best shape possible for today's race and we even tried some last minute things in warm-up this morning, but unfortunately nothing offered that required step forward. As the race progressed, it became clear that our riders were also experiencing increasing wear on their rear tyres which subsequently dropped them further back from the top five. I can assure each of our teams that we will work hard to determine the cause of our troubles in Estoril and thank them for their co-operation all weekend.”