Japanese GP: Kawasaki race report

HOPKINS FIGHTS TO THE CHEQUERED FLAG FOR TENTH Kawasaki's John Hopkins fought a hard battle to the chequered flag today to clinch 10th place in the A-style Grand Prix of Japan at the Motegi circuit. Hopkins got a steady start to the 24-lap...

HOPKINS FIGHTS TO THE CHEQUERED FLAG FOR TENTH

Kawasaki's John Hopkins fought a hard battle to the chequered flag today to clinch 10th place in the A-style Grand Prix of Japan at the Motegi circuit.

Hopkins got a steady start to the 24-lap race and settled into 11th position for the opening stages, before losing a place on lap seven to Marco Melandri. The 25-year-old Anglo-American then benefited from Melandri's mistake on lap nine and found a good rhythm aboard his Ninja ZX-RR to catch 10th placed James Toseland one lap later.

Hopkins, who is known for his excellent late-braking skills, tried to find a way around the Tech 3 Yamaha rider in a 14-lap tussle that lasted to the finish line. The Kawasaki pilot finally managed to make a pass stick at turn two on the final lap, and fended off Toseland to the chequered flag to clinch his fourth top ten finish of the season.

Anthony West endured a tough race today after suffering with a technical difficulty aboard his Ninja ZX-RR, which hampered his progress around the 4.8km circuit. The 27-year-old Australian managed to climb his way up to 14th position from 17th on the grid, when a problem with his front brake caused him to run into the gravel trap on lap 10.

West rejoined the race in 16th place and gained a position when Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen ran onto the grass. The Kawasaki pilot was unable to catch the group ahead of him having lost his race rhythm, and crossed the finish line in 15th place. His crew are now investigating the issue with his front brake, and West is hoping to put this behind him to continue the progress he's made in set-up this weekend for his home Grand Prix next time out.

Valentino Rossi took his eighth victory of the season today to claim the 2008 MotoGP World Championship title with three rounds remaining.

John Hopkins - #21 - 10th Position

"The start is always a bit hectic here because the first few turns are quite tight, so we just got our head down and settled into a rhythm. We caught up with James Toseland and I tried everything to get around him, but he just had a little bit more acceleration out of the turns than us. It was quite frustrating because on the brakes and mid-corner we were much quicker, so we passed each other on many occasions. We were side by side for a lot of the time so it was a big battle and it came down to the final lap where I made a pass that stuck at turn two. We managed to achieve tenth, but really I felt we were capable of a top five finish because we were lapping at the same pace as riders much further up the field. We've learnt a lot from this weekend, and we've made a lot of set-up changes, so it's definitely been positive. I've also regained a lot of confidence and we can now use the last three rounds to start preparing the bike for 2009."

Anthony West - #13 - 15th Position

"At the moment it seems that, if it wasn't for bad luck we wouldn't have any luck at all. Early on in the race my front brake lever was coming all the way back to the bar, and the bike just wasn't stopping. Almost every lap I had to use the brake span adjuster to move the lever further out, but two corners later it would be back to the bar again. We don't know yet what the problem was, but eventually I just ran out of brakes at the end of the straight and ended up taking a trip through the gravel trap. So, a bit frustrating, but I don't want to dwell on this weekend. Now I need to look forward to my home race at Phillip Island, where I really want to put on a good show for all the Australian MotoGP fans. We made some progress with set-up during practice and qualifying here, and I hope we can continue to make further improvements before we line up for the Australian Grand Prix next Sunday."

Bartholemy - Kawasaki Competition Manager

"This weekend has been quite positive for us, as we've been in, or close to, the top ten for most of the sessions, which is an improvement on the last few races. John has made some steps forward in set-up, and he has more confidence on the bike. He was trying hard to get past Toseland in the race, but it seems we need to improve the machine's corner exit capabilities, as this would certainly have helped his campaign today. Anthony suffered with some problems, but he made a good start to the race and he also seemed to have felt more comfortable on the bike during yesterday. I hope we can continue with the progress he's made here, especially for his home round next weekend in Australia."

-credit: krt

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Series MotoGP
Drivers Valentino Rossi , John Hopkins , James Toseland , Chris Vermeulen , Marco Melandri , Anthony West , Phillip Island