Rizla Suzuki MotoGP's Chris Vermeulen raced his Suzuki GSV-R to a fantastic second place in today's American Grand Prix.
Starting from third on the grid, Vermeulen settled into that position for the first three laps and then passed Dani Pedrosa and set about chasing race leader Casey Stoner. Vermeulen and Stoner quickly pulled away from the rest of the field and as hard as Vermeulen tried he couldn't quite catch the current World Championship leader.
Vermeulen's second place is his third podium of the season following a win in France and third in the UK, and it is the first one he has achieved on a dry track.
John Hopkins had the worst possible start to his home GP. He got off the line well from the third row and was up at the front going into the second turn, but a collision with another rider left Hopkins on the floor with significant damage to his bike.
The gutsy Anglo-American picked himself and his bike up and made it back to the pits. Hectic running repairs from his mechanics got him back on track and Hopkins continued in the race. His lap-times for the rest of the race were well on podium pace and but for the crash a top-three position would certainly have been within his grasp. His efforts were rewarded at the end as he crossed the line in 15th place to claim a vital championship point.
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP now goes into the season break in fourth place in the team's championship, with Vermeulen also in fourth and Hopkins in sixth in the riders' classification. The next round of the MotoGP World Championship will be at Brno in the Czech Republic on Sunday 19th August.
"I am absolutely over the moon to be on the podium here at Laguna! Last year we had a lot of pace as well, but it didn't quite work out in the race. Suzuki has overcome that and we have had a trouble free weekend. The Bridgestone tyres worked great and only myself and Casey had the pace to do the lap-times at the beginning. Unfortunately I couldn't quite hang with him all race but I am very happy to be second and now let's go forward and get a few more of these."
"What can I say? It definitely sucks and I'm really disappointed. It was especially disappointing that it was my home Grand Prix and I was out of it so early on. Up until the crash everything was going well. I got a good start and went into the turn right up there. Somehow Nicky came wide and I went up the inside of him, but as I did that I guess he didn't see me and as he cut back in we came together. He hit my front brake lever and I went down. I got back to the pits and the crew did an awesome job changing the parts so quickly so that I could get back in the race. I wanted to carry on and use the race as a simulation, but now that I have come in and seen my times compared to others I'm a bit more disappointed -- but hey that's racing! The Suzuki and the Bridgestone tyres worked really well today, and thanks to Stuart and all the guys for a great job all weekend. I'd like to congratulate Chris on his podium, he should have had one last year so he deserved that today, I'm pretty sure I'd have been there with him as well if other things hadn't have happened!"
Paul Denning -- Team Manager:
"It's been a great event here in California. The Rizla Suzuki GSV-R and the Bridgestone tyres have been a competitive package all weekend long. The guys have ridden hard and today Chris got the dry podium that he obviously deserved.
"The only negative point was the bad luck for John at the start of the race. I am really grateful to him for showing the commitment to get back to the pits and then to re-join the race. I am equally grateful to the crew for making it rideable, and a point at the end of the race was the very least that he should have achieved!
"We could have had two Rizla Suzukis on the podium today. We didn't have an answer for Casey, but there is no question that Chris and John were able to run with anybody else in terms of pace here at Laguna."