Front row start for in-form Hopkins at Chinese Grand Prix

2007-05-05 08:31
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP racer John Hopkins will start from the middle of the front row for tomorrow's Chinese Grand Prix after qualifying in second place.

Hopkins (1'59.315, 24 laps) continued his good form around the 5.281km Shanghai circuit. He was the quickest rider on race tyres during this morning's free practice session and for a large proportion of the qualifying session. His fastest lap time was only bettered by Valentino Rossi.

Chris Vermeulen was unfortunately again the victim of an incident with another rider, as he looked to make up time on his last qualifying lap. Vermeulen (P15, 2'00.680, 20 laps) seemed destined for at least a second row start, but he and Loris Capirossi collided and both riders went down.

Vermeulen will now have it all to do tomorrow as he starts from the fifth row of the grid. His times on race tyres had improved considerably today and he was seventh quickest before other riders started to use qualifiers, so he is still confident of a good performance tomorrow.

Tomorrow's race is round four of the MotoGP World Championship and the 22-lap event will take place at 15.00hrs local time (07.00hrs GMT).

John Hopkins:

"I'm really happy with the way things have gone today. We've put in a lot of work already this weekend, to make sure we get the best set-up for the race tyres. Bridgestone has done a great job and the Suzuki GSV-R is working exceptionally well. We have been consistent throughout all the practices and have been really running hard to make sure everything is right. Now it's time to translate that hard work into the race. It's still a bit up in the air with the weather, but whatever comes we'll be ready, and if it's dry I'm certain we will be running near the front!"

Chris Vermeulen:

"We had made progress all day long with the bike on race tyres and in this afternoon's session we went quicker again. We made a change to the bike on the first qualifier but it was the wrong direction so we changed it back for the second one. That lap felt good and I was catching Loris, he made a mistake and I went up the inside of him and he then hit my back wheel and we both went down - that's the second time in two weekends someone has taken me out! I'm obviously not very happy about that as I think I could have been on at least the front two rows. That's racing though and we need to try and get a good start and see how the race goes."

Paul Denning - Team Manager:

"There is no question that John and the Rizla Suzuki deserve to be on the front row today - he's done an incredibly consistent job all weekend! There are eight or so riders that are capable of going fast in the race here and John is certainly amongst those. He has given himself the best chance of a good start and to be able to go for it straight away.

"Chris has made big steps today and has been running close to the front group on race tyres. Qualifying is so important and he had no choice but to go for it and try to achieve the best position possible. It wasn't a race, but it seems that what happened with Chris and Loris is what you call a 'racing incident'. The good news is that he was not seriously hurt and will be fit enough to race tomorrow."

Sinopec Great Wall Lubricants GP of China Qualifying Practice Classification:

1. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1'58.424: 2. JOHN HOPKINS (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) +0.891: 3. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) +0.982: 4. Casey Stoner (Ducati) +1.092: 5. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) +1.178: 15. CHRIS VERMEULEN (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) +2.256:

Source: Team Suzuki Press Office

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