Big improvements for Rizla Suzuki MotoGP in close qualification John Hopkins will start tomorrow's German Grand Prix from the middle of the second row after powering his Rizla Suzuki GSV-R to the fifth fastest time during this afternoon's hot and sunny qualifying session.
Hopkins (1'22.561, 31 laps) was only 0.177 seconds off pole position in an incredibly close grid that saw the top-16 riders separated by less than a second! The Anglo-American's starting place could have been even better, as on his last lap on the qualifying tyres he was well inside the fastest time, but a couple of small mistakes on the final two corners cost him the valuable tenths-of-a-second that would have seen him on at least the front row.
Chris Vermeulen was only 0.655 seconds off the pole time, set by world championship leader Casey Stoner, but the sheer competitiveness of the MotoGP field means he will start the race from the middle of the fourth row.
Vermeulen (P11, 1'23.039, 26 laps) did show big improvements on his race pace again today and was consistently recording times in-touch with the fastest riders, as the Bridgestone race - and qualifying -- tyres did a great job coping with track temperatures of 50C.
Hopkins and Vermeulen are both confident for tomorrow's 30-lap race and are convinced they have the set-up of their GSV-Rs correct and the durability in their Bridgestone tyres to be pushing for high-placed finishes when the race gets underway at 14.00hrs (12.00hrs GMT).
"The whole of today has gone pretty well! We had to get the bike and tyres dialled in to the hot track. We are expecting these sorts of temperatures in the race tomorrow, so it was all vital practice. We have got a strong race set-up and a really good set of tyres in our allocation that we are looking forward to using in the race. Right now the crew is working hard and I am working hard to get everything right for tomorrow. I still have a few things to improve on overnight, so that I can come out as prepared as possible! In qualifying I made a bit of a mistake on the first lap and then got held up by some other riders on the second one. That meant the pressure was on with my final lap, and I made a couple of mistakes on the last two corners and didn't get round them as quick as I would have liked, or I'm sure I would have been on the front row, if not on pole! A couple of guys are running a really high race pace so I will have to try and match them and then better them at the end tomorrow!"
"We made some more improvements to the bike this afternoon and we have found a combination of race tyres that we are really happy with. I felt good with my race pace and went the quickest I've gone all weekend. With the extra heat on the track, grip was always an issue, and I did lose the front on the last qualifying lap, but managed to stay on! It's not great being in 11th, but we are only 0.6-of-a-second off pole. This is close racing so if I can get off the start well, my race pace is there -- it's a lot better than where we qualified! I just need to get my passing mind in and my elbows out and get going from the off!"
Paul Denning -- Team Manager:
"We have made the improvements today that we wanted to make and we have taken further steps forward in terms of set-up and lap-times. John did a great job to rescue his qualifying situation and go from 15th to fifth at the end, and by the look of things the position could have been even better!
"Chris' race pace looks very promising and very consistent. We possibly lack something to the very fastest guys on ultimate lap-time, but our consistency looks great, and 30-laps in this heat will be real test for everything technically and physically.
"It is incredibly close racing - as it has been on many weekends recently. It looks like whoever it was that decided to change to the 800cc bikes for 2007 clearly knew something we didn't in terms of the excitement of the show!"