Hopkins on top in Shanghai

2007-05-04 08:05
John Hopkins stormed his Rizla Suzuki GSV-R to the top of the timesheets on the first day of practice for Sunday's Grand Prix of China.

Hopkins (2'01.204, 44 laps) showed his intentions for this weekend's race during this morning's first practice session, as the Anglo-American ace was consistently in first place - only being edged into second in the closing moments by Championship leader Casey Stoner.

During the afternoon session Hopkins only used one set of Bridgestone race tyres and his times continued to come down. He recorded his fastest time on his 21st lap of the 5.281km Shanghai International Circuit, as the new generation of Bridgestone tyres continued their impressive performance.

Chris Vermeulen (P12, 2'01.991, 43 laps) was pleased that he was able to get a full day's dry practice in today. The 24-year-old Australian is at Shanghai for only the second time and the amount of dry practice he had last year was minimal. He continued to improve on his lap times throughout the day and although he was in 12th place overall - just over 0.7 seconds off team-mate Hopkins - he knows that he can improve tomorrow and make a serious challenge over the weekend.

Today's practice sessions were held in warm, humid and hazy conditions. Weather forecasts for the rest of the weekend vary from thunderstorms to bright sunshine with very high humidity - Rizla Suzuki MotoGP must cover all eventualities during tomorrow's final free practice session and afternoon qualifying. The team will do all it can to make sure that Hopkins and Vermeulen are in the best shape possible in readiness for Sunday's 22-lap race that gets underway at 15.00hrs local time (07.00hrs GMT).

John Hopkins:

"First of all I want to say hats off to Bridgestone! We have been using really good tyres straight away; they have really done their research from last year and stepped right up to the plate! The Suzuki is also doing really good things. I knew it was going to be a track that would suit the 800, as Shanghai has some good flowing corners and we spend a lot of the time on the edge of the tyres and have to do quite a bit of late braking. At the moment I am just going from kerb to kerb and the mix of the bike and tyres makes it feel like I'm on rails! We have made some improvements over the day and we still have a couple of little bits to sort out tomorrow. Competition is really close again and we need to find every tenth of a second we can and keep our heads down. Regardless of what the weather brings tomorrow we'll be up for it and come out swinging!"

Chris Vermeulen:

"It was alright out there today! China is probably the GP circuit that I know the least, because last year we had a lot of wet sessions and I only did three laps in the race before I crashed. It was good that we got a full dry day in today; I have managed to learn a lot about my riding around here and find my lines. The bike is working well and I can consistently do the lap-times. We do have a couple of problems in two corners and we hope we will be able to get them solved tomorrow and be on the pace. It's tight in the top 10, so I need to be up in there and make sure that I have a chance of a good race on Sunday."

Paul Denning - Team Manager:

"The Rizla Suzuki was certainly part of the action at the Turkish GP a couple of weeks ago and it looks like we've got the potential to again challenge at the front. It's incredibly close with at least eight riders seeming to be capable of running in the low 2'01s. The encouraging thing for us is that John ran the same set of tyres during the whole afternoon session and was able to continually increase his speed and bring down his times.

"Chris has a bit of a problem through the last section of the track - just two corners - and if we can get that sorted tomorrow I am sure he will be taking steps towards the front of the pack!"

Sinopec Great Wall Lubricants GP of China Free Practice Classification:

1. JOHN HOPKINS (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) 2'01.204: 2. Marco Melandri (Honda) +0.099: 3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) +0.129: 4. Nicky Hayden (Honda) +0.142: 5. Loris Capirossi +0.161: 12. CHRIS VERMEULEN (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) +0.787:

Source: Team Suzuki Press Office

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