Qatar : Rizla Suzuki – Day Two
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP racer John Hopkins will start the first Grand Prix of the season at Doha in Qatar tomorrow from sixth place on the grid.
Hopkins (P6, 1'55.833, 45 laps) continued to battle against the pain he is suffering from his
recent crash and was never outside the top-six on the timesheets during this afternoon's qualifying session. He actually topped the leader board early on in the session and was on target for a front row start right up until the final minutes of the hour.
Suzuki's Anglo-American performed very positively all day on Bridgestone's race tyres and was fourth quickest overall – before qualifying tyres were used - a position that that gives the Team great confidence for tomorrow's race.
Chris Vermeulen also performed well on race tyres and moved up to eighth place overall, as his crew worked hard to get his Suzuki GSV-R set-up for the demanding conditions of the 5.380km desert circuit. Unfortunately for Vermeulen his qualifying tyre choice that was made on Wednesday – in line with the new tyre rule – proved costly. He was unable to capitalise on his improving form during the qualifying session, mainly due to the hard compound tyre not suiting his style or bike settings as track temperatures reached 47°C. Vermeulen (P13, 1'56.639, 47 laps) will start from the front of the fifth row.
Today's pole position was set by former World Champion Valentino Rossi on his Factory Yamaha, with a new circuit record of 1'55.002.
Tomorrow's 22 -lap race will get underway at 15.00hrs local time (12.00hrs GMT) as both Rizla Suzuki MotoGP racers will be aiming to score valuable points from the inaugural race of the season.
“From where we started the weekend I've got to say that I am pretty happy to be starting from the second row. We've got a lot of work done over the last two days and the set-up of the bike is really good right now. We have a good race tyre that should go the distance and has lots of grip, so cheers to Bridgestone for that and for making the improvements that were needed. As far as qualifying goes I think we chose a bit too hard a compound on Wednesday – but I guess that is all part of the new rule. We had a bit of movement and it wasn't stuck to the track like the Bridgestone qualifiers usually are. Considering the pain I've been in this weekend I'm pleased with where we are and I'm sure that the adrenaline will kick in come race time. I can't wait to be racing and trying to run at the front - I'm sure I'll have a good time out there!”
“This afternoon the wind changed direction and it made it a bit more difficult out there.
For the tests and up until this afternoon it had been a strong headwind down the straight, but then it turned around and was not as strong so it was all a bit different than what we were used to. I got up to speed on the race tyre and felt quite comfortable. I moved into the top 10 and think I will be able to find a bit more speed tomorrow. The qualifiers just didn't give me the right grip and I wasn't able to go much faster than I had been already. It'll make it a bit harder tomorrow having to start from 13th, but that's racing and we'll try our best to get closer to the front.”
“Considering John started the weekend not knowing if he would be able to race at all, a second row start is a fantastic result and a good reward for his bravery and commitment. He hasn't put a race distance together so far this week, but I'm sure come race day the adrenaline will see him through to the end. John has a good race pace and I think he has the capacity to go a bit quicker when the time comes and situations dictate it.
“It's been a difficult weekend for Chris up to yet, and whilst his race pace has improved step-by-step it just didn't work for him on the qualifiers today. Fifth row is not an ideal place to start but he can do some good times on the race tyres and I know he will be giving it everything he can come tomorrow afternoon. He's always been a great racer even if qualifying doesn't go so well!”
“The tyres seem to have decent durability and we are hoping for a good solid Grand Prix from both riders tomorrow, and to get some respectable points under our belts.”