THIRD ROW FOR HOPKINS AT LE MANS Kawasaki's John Hopkins will start tomorrow's French Grand Prix from the third row of the grid, after qualifying his Ninja ZX-RR in ninth place during this afternoon's hour long timed session. Hopkins used the...
THIRD ROW FOR HOPKINS AT LE MANS
Kawasaki's John Hopkins will start tomorrow's French Grand Prix from the third row of the grid, after qualifying his Ninja ZX-RR in ninth place during this afternoon's hour long timed session.
Hopkins used the first half of the qualifying session to identify the best front tyre option on his Ninja ZX-RR, before switching to a rear qualifier with just 23 minutes remaining.
The 24-year-old Anglo-American looked set to steal pole with the fastest time through the first three sectors on his first flying lap, but had to settle for provisional sixth place on the grid, after being baulked by Honda's Alex de Angelis and then suffering a big rear slide through the final sector.
The Kawasaki pilot had two more runs on qualifying tyres and, despite having to run a front tyre that didn't work as effectively in combination with the super-sticky Bridgestone rear, marginally improved on his lap time with his final flying lap.
Hopkins goes into tomorrow's 28-lap race confident that his Ninja ZX-RR is more than a match for his factory rivals in race trim.
Anthony West was, once again, left looking for answers after being plagued by the rear traction problems that have so far hampered his first full season as a factory MotoGP rider. As a result, he was only able to make a small improvement to his fastest lap time after switching to qualifying tyres.
The Le Mans circuit is not an easy one at which to overtake, which means the Kawasaki pilot faces a tough task tomorrow starting from 18th position, and the back row of the grid. But West is nothing if not a battler, and the 26-year-old Australian heads into tomorrow's 28-lap contest determined to fight his way through to a points scoring finish.
John Hopkins - #21 -- 9th -- 1'33.628
"This morning we made considerable progress on a race tyre, and we improved our lap time by three tenths of a second on each run. We didn't know what the weather was going to do this afternoon, so we finalised our dry race tyre in the first session. In qualifying we worked on finding a better front-end feeling on the Ninja ZX-RR to give me more confidence going into the corners. The first run we had on a qualifying tyre wasn't so great as I had a bit of a slide, but we found a combination that worked reasonably well and I was able to push quite hard to gain a third row grid position on our final run. Tomorrow we have to get away from the line quickly; the bike is ready to race and I'm looking forward to it whatever the weather."
Anthony West - #13 -- 18th -- 1'35.349
"I'm incredibly frustrated that we were unable to continue making progress today. We went out on a race tyre in practice and I felt comfortable with the direction we were going. However, we just couldn't make a significant improvement on a qualifying tyre, which has put us on the back of the grid. For me this is not good enough, especially as John seems to be able to make the bike work for him. I have to look at maybe changing my riding style to improve our times, try to find the root cause of our problems, and turn my season around. We will not make any changes to the bike overnight, and tomorrow I'll be going out to race as hard as possible."
Bartholemy - Kawasaki Competition Manager
"John did a good job today. We are losing ground, and time, out of the turns at the moment, and we are working hard to improve in this area, but John seems to be able to adapt his riding style to compensate. Anthony, on the other hand, is finding it more difficult to adapt. We have made many changes to the bike to try and improve Anthony's feeling with the rear, but with limited success. Now he must look to himself for at least part of the solution; he needs to adapt his style further to get the best from our Ninja ZX-RR, so that he's able to run closer to his teammate during both qualifying and the race. Anthony still has my full support, as I'm confident that it is only a matter of a short time before he's back where he belongs; well inside the top ten."