Jerez : Rizla Suzuki – Day One
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP racers John Hopkins and Chris Vermeulen recorded the seventh and eighth fastest times respectively during today's free practice sessions for the Jerez Grand Prix on Sunday.
Hopkins (1'41.245, 49 laps) is still suffering
from his hand injury, but put together some fast laps on his Suzuki GSV-R as he worked with his team to find the best combination of Bridgestone race tyres to match the new 800cc bike's performance around the 4.4km track.
Hopkins missed the IRTA test at Jerez earlier in the year – due to the injuries he sustained at Qatar – and had to take a gamble on the correct tyres to use because he had no data as to how the new bike would perform on this circuit.
Vermeulen is also not at full fitness this weekend, as Suzuki's Australian star is suffering from a strong head cold. This didn't deter the 24-year-old as he went about his work with the usual professional manner and saw his lap times reduce consistently throughout the day. His time of 1'41.305 from his 49 laps was the fastest time he had ever been round Jerez on race tyres.
Team Test Rider Kousuke Akiyoshi produced the biggest improvement of any rider at the Spanish track today. He managed to take over one-and-a-half seconds off his lap-times from the morning to the afternoon session. His best time of 1'42.549 gave him 20th place overall, on this his first-ever European Grand Prix practice day.
Today's practice was held in dry sunny conditions with the air temperatures reaching 20°C. The fastest time was set by local Spanish favourite Carlos Checa on a Honda.
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP has one more practice session tomorrow morning before qualifying gets underway in the afternoon.
Sunday's race will be over 27 laps and the light will turn to go at 14.00hrs local time (13.00hrs GMT).
“We're off to a pretty good start for the weekend. We are working through the tyres with Bridgestone as I had to throw the dice and take a bit of a gamble with which tyres to choose for the new tyre rule. I never made it here for the IRTA test so I didn't have a lot of information. It seems like what we've got is pretty good, but we are still going to work on some settings to get the best grip we can. I still have a bit of pain and this is a more physical track than Qatar so I am really feeling it. But I'll ride around that and I am expecting to have a pretty good weekend. Everything has got off to a good start and if we get that bit more grip and get a good qualifying position tomorrow anything can happen come Sunday!”
“The weather has changed a bit for this weekend and it was quite cold this morning. That made it a bit difficult to anything on the track in the beginning because the air and track temperatures were so cool. We made some changes with the bike and tried a different tyre this afternoon that gave us a bit more grip. I was consistently going quicker and after we made some small changes to the suspension I managed to do my fastest ever lap around here on race tyres. The bike is feeling pretty good and I can do one minute 41 second laps quite easily, so if I can do that come Sunday we might be quite near to the front!”
“I am pleased with my day today as I managed to improve my time in both sessions. I now know the track a bit better and cannot wait to get out there again tomorrow. I am really looking forward to the race as it will be my first GP in Europe and I have been told that Jerez is a great place to race at in a MotoGP.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“Jerez always produces very close lap times and today was no exception. The top 15 riders were covered by less than a second, which means that the fine details of the settings for the Rizla Suzuki, and how we get the best out of the Bridgestone tyres, will be even more critical than usual. Point two of a second in tomorrow's qualifying will make a big difference to where you start from on Sunday.
We can't be too displeased at our positions today, we have John still carrying his wrist injury and Chris with a quite heavy cold, but they are still both inside the top eight! Hopefully with some improvements in their conditions tomorrow and some changes in the settings of the GSV-R we'll be able to take some more steps forward”