HOPKINS HOPING FOR TOP TEN AT VALENCIA
Kawasaki's John Hopkins has his sights firmly set on a top ten finish at the final Grand Prix of the season in Valencia tomorrow, after qualifying his Ninja ZX-RR in 14th position on the grid. Anthony West will start his final race for Kawasaki from 17th position on the grid, after trailing his teammate home by just two tenths of a second this afternoon.
Following yesterday's wet practice, intermittent rain at the 4km circuit today left the entire MotoGP field with little time to set-up their race machines in dry conditions. The rain began to fall just 10-minutes into the opening session of the day and although a dry line began to appear towards the end of the practice stint, neither Hopkins nor teammate West were able to switch to full slick tyres.
Fortunately for the thousands of Spanish race fans lining the circuit, the weather improved slightly for this afternoon's hour-long, timed session. Using slick tyres for the first time this weekend, the Kawasaki duo opted to begin their qualifying runs early on in the session due to the threat of more rain.
Hopkins concentrated on finding a compromise between the rear-traction and agility of his Ninja ZX-RR, as at this circuit the machines are cornering for the majority of the lap. The 25-year-old Anglo-American progressively improved his lap time in race trim, and as the track conditions improved, the Kawasaki pilot ran his final qualifying tyre to set his fastest time of the day on lap 24 of 26, finishing in 14th position on the grid.
West also started his qualifying runs early on in the afternoon session, as he too predicted further rain. This gave him little time to adjust himself to a dry set-up, following three-hours of wet practice around the Valencia circuit. As the clouds cleared late on in the session, the 27-year-old Australian improved his qualifying time on his final run on super-sticky rubber, and the Kawasaki-pilot will start tomorrow's 30-lap race from 17th on the grid.
John Hopkins - #21 - 14th - 1'33.681
"It's been an interesting qualifying session today. The track was still wet in places when we first went out, so we just tried to put some laps together to get a feel for the slick tyres in the dry for the first time this weekend. We started our qualifying runs early as it started to rain on circuit, but with no real warm-up, we didn't put a great lap together. We switched back to race tyres to work on our traction control and engine braking. We wanted to try and get the bike to turn a little bit better, particularly as this circuit requires a great degree of accuracy and agility from rider and machine. We had one final qualifying tyre late on in the session and we went a little bit quicker, but it wasn't exactly where we were hoping to be for the final race of the year. We have a clear indication of what we need to improve for the race, and I hope it's dry tomorrow as the aim is to finish inside the top ten."
Anthony West - #13 - 17th - 1'33.879
"After all of the rain yesterday and this morning, we have had very little time to set the bike up in the dry. We decided to run the first few qualifying tyres early on in the session, in case conditions deteriorated out on track. This maybe wasn't the best idea, as it didn't give us any dry set-up time or a build up in speed for our qualifying runs. After the rain, the end of the session was reasonably dry and we ran a final qualifying tyre, which did improve our time, but we've ended up in 17th of the grid. Obviously this has given us a lot of work to do, but my lap time on a race tyre is very similar to John's, so my main aim will be to try and finish in front of him in my final race for Kawasaki."
Yoda - Kawasaki Racing Director
"The conditions here have been very changeable and this left us with very little time to set the bikes up in the dry. We know exactly where we need to improve for tomorrow, and one of the main areas we have been looking at today is the engine braking of our machine. I think a top ten is achievable for John, and Anthony should be able to run at a similar pace in tomorrow's race, as their lap times have been fairly close all weekend."