Fantastic debut podium for Hopkins in Shanghai
John Hopkins secured his first MotoGP podium at the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai today, as he stormed his Rizla Suzuki home in third place - a result that also moves him into the top five in the MotoGP Championship.
Hopkins started from the front row of the grid and got off to a great start. He then traded places with Marco Melandri and Dani Pedrosa early on, before getting away from them and chasing down Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi. The hard-charging Anglo-American caught up with the leaders and the three of them produced incredibly fast lap-times as they pulled away from the chasing pack. Hopkins tried to make a bid for a higher position, but decided that bringing his GSV-R home for his first top-three finish was more important than any last lap heroics.
Hopkins was visibly overcome as he crossed the line in front of his cheering team, he will now go onto the next round in France with high confidence as he looks to build on this success.
Chris Vermeulen again showed his true racer spirit by making his way up to an impressive seventh place from 15th on the grid. He battled all race long with Loris Capirossi as the two of them fought their way through the field in the 22-lap race. The performance of the Bridgestone tyres was yet again another major factor in Vermeulen's ability to get past other riders and keep the consistency in his lap-times.
Today's race was held in warm and sunny conditions with air temperatures reaching 23C. An exuberant crowd watched Stoner win his third race of the season on his Bridgestone-shod Ducati.
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP now travels back to Europe for round five of the MotoGP World Championship at Le Mans in France on Sunday 20th May.
"I am so happy with the way the race went and I want to dedicate my first podium to my Dad! Without doubt he was watching me and he certainly helped get me through to the finish - there will be more of these to come! I want to also give a big thanks to everyone who has supported me and especially my family. I also owe a huge thank-you to my crew who have been right behind me all the time. I really want to congratulate Bridgestone for the great tyres and Suzuki for the huge steps forward with the bike that is enabling me to run at the front now.
"As far as the race went, I got a good start and then got passed by Marco and Dani; I started to get a bit frustrated because Casey and Valentino were pulling away. I made a couple of aggressive manoeuvres on both Dani and Marco to get round them and started to chase down the front two. From there on it was all about trying to hang on to them, they were running a tremendous pace and I just couldn't get past. In the end I made sure I brought the bike home in third. I was praying nothing would go wrong in the last two laps -- and it didn't so I guess my Dad was looking down on me! Now I can't wait for Le Mans -- I'm looking into backing this up with another podium!"
"I was a bit injured from yesterday's crash, but the worst part today was that I had to start back on the fifth row. I got a good start and made up some places through the first two turns and the bike and tyres felt really good - I could do consistently fast times. It was a bit of a shame that I was back there as I did get held up a bit by some slower riders. I got up to seventh and had a great battle with Loris. Every time I passed him he'd then go past me on the straights -- we just didn't have the speed to match his bike. Seventh place from 15th on the grid is not a bad performance and we can look forward to Le Mans. I also want to congratulate John on his first podium in MotoGP, I know what it means to him and I'm sure there will be plenty more of those for Rizla Suzuki!"
Paul Denning -- Team Manager:
"John and Rizla Suzuki really deserved the front row start yesterday and thoroughly deserved today's superb result. John came from a reasonable distance back to relentlessly close the gap down on Casey and Valentino. He hung with them fantastically and right up to the last few laps - where discretion seemed to be the better part of valour - he made sure that he secured his first podium. To be beaten by those two riders - in the form they are in at the moment -- is no disgrace. As we move on to some of John's favourite tracks this result will certainly give him the confidence to be a regular front runner.
"Chris' race was as usual a storming performance, especially as he was in some discomfort after yesterday's accident. He and Loris had a great race for sixth place and it was nice to see a good clean fight between two real racers, and a safe finish for both of them.
"Congratulations to the whole team on a good weekends work!"