| Suzuki-MotoGP: Latest News|
23 September 2006
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP racer John Hopkins had a day of two distinct halves in Japan today as the morning session saw him as one of the fastest riders on race tyres, but a crash in qualifying saw him relegated to the fifth row for tomorrow's race.
The 23-year-old Anglo-American has been up with the quickest times all weekend on his Bridgestone race tyres and continued that this morning. Hopkins (P13, 1'47.071) continued to test the tyres he will use in tomorrow's race whilst other riders chose to use qualifiers in the first session. He showed that he has a good race set-up as he recorded consistently fast laps. The afternoon qualifying session didn't go to plan and a heavy crash with 10 minutes remaining cost Hopkins valuable time, he was able to get back on track on his second bike but couldn't better his earlier time.
Rizla Suzuki's Test Team rider and MotoGP debutant Kousuke Akiyoshi will start from 12th position on the grid tomorrow and the highest placed Suzuki. He used his home track knowledge to the full in the qualifying session to record a time of 1'46.958.
Chris Vermeulen (P15, 1'47.451) continued to improve on his times all day and will start from the fifth row with team-mate Hopkins. He too will be looking for a good start and to get amongst the front pack early on.
The pole position for tomorrow's 24 lap race was taken by Loris Capirossi on his Bridgestone-shod Ducati. The race will get underway at 14.00hrs local time (05.00hrsGMT) with all three Suzuki racers determined to put on a good show for all the visiting Suzuki management, guests and fans.
"I just couldn't get the front of the bike to work with any of the qualifying tyres this afternoon and I have now made it hard work for myself tomorrow. On race tyres we are one of the fastest out there so a good grid position was important today. I haven't got that, so I will have to go all out in the race from the start to get up to the front and show that I can challenge for a podium. I will certainly be going for it, of that you can be certain!"
"We made a lot of progress from yesterday and I made a lot within myself as well. I feel more familiar with the circuit and we are going quicker all the time. With qualifying I felt I was losing too much time in the first split and that is something I need to work on overnight and in the warm-up. I've qualified less than four-tenths behind John – which is not too bad for my first time here. We still have a lot of work to do in the race, but I think it's obtainable. The bike's working really well, and let's hope that we can move up through the field"
"I am very surprised but very happy to be the first of the Suzukis. I got in a good lap behind Rossi and set a good time. I will now start in 12th and try to go higher. The bike is working well here and the Bridgestone tyres are giving me lots of grip and confidence. I now look forward to the race."
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
"I think the day went to plan for Rizla Suzuki apart from the last 30 minutes of the qualifying session, when unfortunately – especially for John – things just didn't work out. Congratulations to Akiyoshi san for qualifying as the highest placed Suzuki, and proving his ability in such a strong field.
"John has a mountain to climb tomorrow in terms of his starting position, but he has shown over the weekend that he is amongst the fastest riders on race tyres. So it will all be down to a good start and some aggressive riding early on to see what he can achieve.
"Chris has improved all weekend but it is always tough on a track that you have no experience on. With a few more changes overnight he will be looking to improve his position in tomorrow's race."
A-Style Grand Prix of Japan Qualifying Practice Classification:
1. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) 1'45.724: 2. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) +0.267: 3. Marco Melandri (Honda) +0.526: 12. KOUSUKE AKIYOSHI (TEAM SUZUKI MOTOGP) +1.234: 13. JOHN HOPKINS (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) +1.347: 15. CHRIS VERMEULEN (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) +1.727:
Mixed day for Rizla Suzuki at Motegi () 09/24 08:14 AM
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