Valencia : Suzuki - Race
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP racer John Hopkins secured 10th place in the MotoGP World Championship by finishing 11th at today's final Grand Prix of the season at Valencia in Spain.
Hopkins battled hard all race long to achieve a better position in
the high Spanish temperatures, but the choice of too soft a compound front tyre cost him any chance as grip became an issue in the latter stages of the race. The ever-exciting Anglo-American never gave up the chase and the points he scored guaranteed his highest ever finish in a MotoGP season.
Team-mate Chris Vermeulen was looking comfortable in seventh place before a mechanical issue with the gear shift caused him to run into the gravel and fall from his GSV-R. He tried to rejoin the race but was unable to start the bike and was forced to retire. He was unhurt in the crash and is already looking forward to testing the new 800cc this coming week and getting back to racing in 2007.
Today's race was watched by nearly 130,000 fans that baked in the Spanish sun, as temperatures rose to 32°C. The race was won by Troy Bayliss on the Bridgestone-shod Ducati. Nicky Hayden finished in third place to become the 2006 World Champion.
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP will be back in action later this week when it begins testing the all-new 800cc machine in readiness for the 2007 season that begins in Qatar next March.
"Firstly I'd like to give my congratulations to Nicky on the Championship! He had to fight for it today and he showed that he deserves to be Champion. Hats off also to Bayliss – that's amazing! As far as our day, it was definitely not our best. We were hoping to be quite a bit further up the charts today. I think we made the wrong call with the front tyre in this heat and we went for a softer compound than we should have. At the end of the day it has been our best season so far, and we did finish in the top 10.
We have a lot to work on with the 800cc from Wednesday onwards and I'm expecting big things from next season. Now I can't wait to drive the Formula One car on Tuesday and maybe have a couple of quiet ones this evening."
"My start wasn't great and I had to make a few passes on the first lap. I then had a bit of a tussle with John and we passed each other a couple of times. I then managed to take Nakano and I was right behind Rossi, he looked like he was having trouble in the corners and I was going to go past him but then he crashed. Things felt pretty good after that but my front tyre started to go off and I lost a bit of time. I then started to have a gear shift problem and as I was coming into the last turn I shifted down and it found neutral, I was going so fast that I ran off into the gravel and then rather embarrassingly fell over at a slow speed – It's not easy riding a GP bike through the gravel! It was unfortunate to finish the season like that, but I have really enjoyed my first full year in MotoGP with the Rizla Suzuki team. I've got a great bunch of guys behind me and we are starting work on the new bike straight away and we plan to have a stronger season in 2007."
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
"Not the best day we've had this season – by a long way. But we've got to be realistic and look at the year as a whole and recognise the steps forward that we have taken in 2006. As for today, it looked like Chris made a mistake, but he hadn't, and an unusual mechanical fault caused him to run off the track. It seems like we got caught out a bit by the extremely high temperatures this afternoon and went for too soft a compound on the front tyre on both bikes – which possibly cost the guys the chance of battling for better positions.”
"I would like to thank Suzuki, Rizla and all the team sponsors - and most importantly both of the riders and all the crew - for giving 100% throughout the whole of the season. There is a very positive vibe regarding our opportunities for 2007. If we can continue the rate of progress in terms of closing the gap on our competitors, then we have every chance of being truly competitive next season.”
"Rizla Suzuki MotoGP would all like to extend its congratulations to Nicky Hayden and Repsol Honda team on becoming World Champions - Nicky got the job done today and thoroughly deserves the title."