Qatar : Suzuki – Day One
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP racer John Hopkins recorded the fourth fastest time during today's first practice day for the Qatar Grand Prix at Losail.
Hopkins (P4, 1'56.972, 39 laps) was still suffering the after effects from a heavy crash last month,
but the gutsy Anglo-American star overcame the pain to put in a solid day's performance and set himself up nicely for this weekend's MotoGP curtain raiser. He made maximum use of the latest generation of Bridgestone race tyres, which the Japanese company has brought to this race, by only using two rear tyres throughout the whole day.
Chris Vermeulen (P12, 1'57.636, 43 laps) had a tough morning as he and his crew worked hard to overcome a braking setback. He lost quite a bit of time from the session but was able to get back into the flow of things as the afternoon progressed. He has a clear indication of which direction to go in tomorrow and will be eager to move up the timesheets.
Today's practice was held in warm and sunny conditions at the 5.380km long Losail International Circuit. Track temperatures reached 42°C, but air temperature was a pleasant 25°C as the circuit was cooled by a strong wind. Valentino Rossi set the fastest time on his factory Yamaha.
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP has one more practice session tomorrow morning, followed by the hour-long qualifying session in the afternoon. Saturday's 22-lap race gets underway at 15.00hrs local time (12.00hrs GMT).
“We're pretty happy with today. The pain level in my hand has been quite high so my pain threshold has had to withstand that all day.
I've been working hard with the MotoGP clinic and my trainer Johnny Louch, and Team Physio Dean Miller, have been doing a tremendous job getting me back to fitness. Bridgestone has also done an exceptional job here this week by bringing some really good tyres, they have stepped it up massively from what we had here at the test. I think this is the first time in my career that I have only used two rear tyres in a whole day! I ran one for this morning session and another for the whole of the afternoon and set my fastest lap-time on the last lap in both cases. We still have a couple more things to do to the bike tomorrow but we will be ready for qualifying and I'll be doing every thing I can to bring the pain in my hand down. Then we'll be ready to go racing when Saturday comes!”
“We were well prepared for this track this morning as we were only here a couple of weeks ago. We didn't have a lot of things to test so the biggest issue was tyre choice - now that we have a limited amount it's important to pick the right ones. In the morning I had a bit of a brake issue on both bikes and it cost us a bit of time getting it sorted. This afternoon we managed to get it all sorted and I was able to get into more of a rhythm. We have found a good direction with the bike and the tyres and we have some good ideas of things to try tomorrow.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“After such an intensive winter of testing it's great to be back in a competitive atmosphere and getting through our work with a clear target in mind of a good result on Saturday. John in particular has done especially well today, and has only used two rear tyres all day. He set his fastest times on the last laps of each session, so in terms of consistency the possibility of improving our race pace seems very positive. Chris used the same strategy as John today – by doing lots of laps on one tyre. He is still looking for a bit more pace but the crew know where he needs to go and I think Chris has the ability to take that time jump when everything feels right with the bike. The competition at the head of the field – especially Valentino – looks extremely strong. But everybody is getting closer lap-by-lap and we'll definitely be amongst the group challenging for a podium come race day!”