Japanese GP: Rizla Suzuki Saturday notes

Demanding race awaits Rizla Suzuki MotoGP after difficult qualifying at Motegi Rizla Suzuki MotoGP racers John Hopkins and Chris Vermeulen suffered their worst grid positions of the season as the pair struggled to improve significantly on their...

Demanding race awaits Rizla Suzuki MotoGP after difficult qualifying at Motegi

Rizla Suzuki MotoGP racers John Hopkins and Chris Vermeulen suffered their worst grid positions of the season as the pair struggled to improve significantly on their race tyre times during this afternoon's qualifying session for tomorrow's Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi.

Hopkins (P11, 1'47.163, 23 laps) will start outside of the top-10 for the first time this season and will be looking for one of his now customary good starts to make sure he is able to get away with the front runners. He had improved on his race pace though throughout the day and looks strong and consistent. Hopkins is still in a confident mood as he heads into tomorrow's race and is sure that he can put on a good show for Suzuki at its home GP.

Vermeulen (P17, 1'47.914, 27 laps) improved his lap times in race trim significantly, taking almost two seconds off his best time from yesterday's first session. He was unable to match his improvement on race tyres to qualifying tyres and will start from the sixth row of the grid.

Team Test Rider Kousuke Akiyoshi (P13, 1'47.316, 22 laps) continued with his excellent form and was ninth quickest during this morning's final practice session. He lost some places in the afternoon using qualifying tyres, but a start at the head of the fifth row is still a very impressive result for a rider in only his third Grand Prix.

Today's pole position was taken by Dani Pedrosa in the stifling conditions as air temperatures reached 32C and humidity hit 45%. If tomorrow's conditions are similar then the race will be as much a contest of attrition and stamina for the riders during the 24-lap race, as it will be a competition of tyres and machines.

Sunday's race is round 15 of the MotoGP World Championship and the main event gets underway at 14.00hrs local time (05.00hrs GMT).

John Hopkins:

"The weekend has been going pretty well for us and the free practices were all good. We've worked hard with Bridgestone to get the best possible set-up that we can for tomorrow. This afternoon we ran into a couple of problems with the qualifying tyres so we had to do the best we could. We were comfortable on the race tyres, but it was so warm I tried to conserve a bit of energy for the qualifiers at the end of the practice. On my fastest lap I made a mistake on the last turn that cost a couple of tenths, if that hadn't have happened I'm sure we'd have been a couple of rows higher up the grid. It's no different than the last couple of races though, I've got to go out and get a good start and not let anyone get away, because I know I can run with the pace of anybody!"

Kousuke Akiyoshi:

"My lap times have improved over the day and I am sure I can run in the top-10 tomorrow. I am really enjoying the weekend although I would have liked to have been higher up the grid. I have not tested many qualifiers on the 800 and was not sure how fast I could go - maybe I could have gone quicker!"

Chris Vermeulen:

"The whole weekend hasn't been very good so far. We've made a lot of progress on race tyres today and it felt a lot more consistent and at one point I was inside the top-10 and the Bridgestone tyres were working really well. Unfortunately on the qualifiers I couldn't get anymore grip than I did on the race tyres so it wasn't easy to go any quicker, and that is something we're going to have to work on. It sucks starting from so far back, but I can't change that now, I just have to go out there and do the best I can and try to get as many points as possible."

Paul Denning -- Team Manager:

"These were definitely not the results that we were looking for today -- especially at Suzuki's home Grand Prix. John and Akiyoshi have both shown very good pace and consistency on race tyres, but neither of them could quite get it done on qualifiers and it's going to make it difficult to achieve a top result tomorrow. Nonetheless we'll be relying on one of John's trademark starts and hoping that he can use the superb braking stability of the GSV-R to make significant headway in the early laps and get with the fastest riders as soon as possible.

"Chris made big steps today and has put himself back into being a top-10 contender on race tyres. However the qualifying result is going to make for a hard day's work tomorrow and we all need to look at Chris's qualifying potential as a team, and make sure we improve for 2008."

-credit: rizla suzuki

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers John Hopkins , Chris Vermeulen , Paul Denning , Kousuke Akiyoshi , Dani Pedrosa