Jerez : Rizla Suzuki – Race Day
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP racer John Hopkins saw his hopes of a podium dashed today as he crashed out from fourth place during the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez.
Hopkins had been involved in a 13-lap battle with World Champion Nicky Hayden,
and had just managed to get past him and begin to chase down the front three when disaster struck on lap 17.
Suzuki's Anglo-American star lost grip at the front end of the bike as a gust of wind caused him to run wide on a fast right-hand corner. He was unhurt in the crash, and although he re-mounted his battered GSV-R, was unable to collect any championship points as he brought his bike home in 19th place.
Chris Vermeulen had another eventful race – similar to the last outing in Qatar. He started from 14th on the grid and was relegated a couple more places during the first lap, but the determined Australian fought back to claim ninth place, passing some very experienced riders in the process. The third member of the this week's Rizla Suzuki MotoGP team, Kousuke Akiyoshi, just missed out on the points during his first-ever European GP. He rode hard all race and finished in a respectable 17th place despite this being only his second ever Grand Prix start.
Today's race was held in warm and sunny conditions and was watched by a record breaking crowd of 138,168 fans at trackside – the biggest ever at a MotoGP. Valentino Rossi won the race to give him his fifth premier class victory at Jerez, and make him MotoGP's most successful rider ever at this track.
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP will stay at Jerez for a full day's testing tomorrow to help prepare for the next race of the season at Istanbul in Turkey on Sunday 22nd April.
“I am disappointed to say the least - the worst thing is that we have lost valuable championship points. My race pace and the tyres felt good and I was able to put in a few passes in the beginning. I was in a group that was making a bit of a gap, but then I got held up by Nicky. I wanted to get past him, but I was having a hard time doing it. It looked like I was following him, but that wasn't what I wanted. When I got past him I started to chase down the front three, but the wind then picked up and I got blown sideways by a big gust and the pace I was going, and the lean angle I had, I just lost the front! As I say I'm disappointed, but this is a long season and we won't let this faze us. We'll take the positives from here and come back even stronger in Turkey!”
“I knew it was going to be a tough race having to start from 14th and it's difficult to pass around here. At the beginning there were so many guys going so fast and I got involved in a few tussles with people like Capirossi, Barros and Kenny Jr, and they know a thing or two about racing! I found it quite hard to come through the field but I managed to get past quite a few and on the last lap I had a bit of a battle with Barros to keep ninth. It's an improvement on where we started, to finish in the top 10, but we still have a long way to go. The main thing is that we need to qualify and start better to make sure we finish better!”
“I am a bit disappointed not to get any points, but it was a very hard race. I got a good start and I did make a couple of passes on other riders. I have had a good time here at Jerez and it was everything I thought it would be. I would like to thank Suzuki for this race and I hope to be at another Grand Prix soon.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“The results don't reflect what a good job the team did today. John's tyre choice was certainly the best of the selection we had, and without doubt it was a big opportunity missed to finish the same – or better – than Qatar. He got stuck behind Nicky for quite a few laps, but once past he was immediately after that podium. The good news is that he didn't hurt himself and he picked his bike up and finished the race. We showed again that the GSV-R is a decent package and that the results will come.”
“Chris' weekend was really no different to Qatar. As ever he showed he's a true racer and toughed it out to finish at the front of a big fight. He had some incredible battles with some great riders, but a better qualifying performance will see him run much closer to the front guys at the end of the race. “Turkey holds some good memories for us from last year. John will be stronger next month and we will take the positives from the potential shown today and make sure Rizla Suzuki MotoGP is battling at the front again at Istanbul!”