Japanese GP: Rizla Suzuki race report

Rizla Suzuki MotoGP had a frustrating Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi today with all three riders suffering various levels of difficulties over an entertaining and bizarre 24-lap race. John Hopkins was the highest finishing Rizla Suzuki rider with...

Rizla Suzuki MotoGP had a frustrating Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi today with all three riders suffering various levels of difficulties over an entertaining and bizarre 24-lap race.

John Hopkins was the highest finishing Rizla Suzuki rider with 10th place. He struggled to get enough grip right from the start of the race -- which was wet after heavy showers this morning -- and lost several places early on. As the track began to dry he pitted his GSV-R at the end of lap 10 to change to a machine with dry tyres. He re-joined the race in 16th place and set about chasing down the pack in front of him, fighting his way through the field and eventually bringing his bike home in 10th.

Chris Vermeulen's race was nearly over on the start-line as his bike stalled just as the lights changed to go. One of his mechanics had to run on to the grid and re-start the bike before Vermeulen could get away. Suzuki's Australian star was over 40 seconds behind the leader at the end of lap one, but he fought his way back into contention and was at one point inside the top-10. He finally followed team-mate Hopkins home in 11th place, which was a tremendous effort considering his start.

Kousuke Akiyoshi was the unluckiest of all three Rizla Suzuki men today. The Japanese test rider, making only his third Grand Prix start, was in a comfortable seventh place - in front of many established MotoGP stars - before a mechanical issue forced him to retire with just over three laps remaining.

Today's race was watched by a colourful and enthusiastic Japanese crowd who saw Loris Capirossi on his Bridgestone-shod Ducati win his third Japanese Grand Prix in succession. Casey Stoner, also on a Ducati, was crowned MotoGP World Champion after his sixth place was enough to secure him the title.

Rizla Suzuki MotoGP now travels south across the Pacific for the only round of the championship staged in the southern hemisphere. Round 16 of the MotoGP World Championship will be held at Phillip Island in Australia on Sunday 14th October.

John Hopkins:

"The race was all over the place with the drying track. I think I chose a bit too soft of a compound when we first went out and I was sliding around a lot and lost quite a bit of time. I came in and got the dry bike and set about working as hard as I could. I ran off the track once and we had a couple of little mechanical issues, but nothing too serious. We needed to salvage some points from today and we did that. I would like to say congratulations to Casey on winning the championship today -- he certainly deserves it. Other than that I hope we have a lot better time in the next three races than we did at this one!"

Chris Vermeulen:

"We had a problem at the start which certainly wasn't good. The guys had to run on the track and start my bike for me. When I got going I felt alright, but the track was drying quickly and I knew it was only a matter of time before I had to come in and change bikes. It was difficult to gauge how quickly to go in those conditions and when I went out on slick tyres there was still a lot of water on the track so it was quite slippery! It was all about taking risks and trying to be quick in some places and smooth in others. We really struggled to get enough heat into the tyres and brakes in these conditions, but in the last few laps we got going. To come from nearly a minute behind on the first lap to 11th is ok, but it is not good enough. I have got to work on my qualifying and we need to fix the problem with the bike in time for the next race back home in Australia. Finally, well done to Casey, it's good to see an Aussie as champion; I just need to make sure it's me next time!"

Kousuke Akiyoshi:

"I was having a good race and really enjoying myself. The bike and the tyres were working well and I thought I was going to get a good finish. But something happened to my bike and I had to stop. I am really disappointed because I would like to have given Suzuki a good result as a thank you for this weekend!"

Paul Denning -- Team Manager:

"It's been a difficult weekend for Rizla Suzuki MotoGP in Motegi and today the luck didn't go with us either. I feel particularly bad for Akiyoshi-san. He did really well all weekend and looked set for a good finish. He made a great effort here, turned a few heads and deserved a better result -- he was faster than Chris and John today and can be proud of his efforts.

"Chris and John both had a number of issues; most notably Chris with his bike stopping on the start-line and neither of the guys had a good feeling in either the wet or dry conditions. We've had a great season so far, but this weekend is a clear demonstration that you can't assume anything and we will have to work extremely hard between now and Phillip Island to make sure we are back on the pace.

"On behalf of Rizla Suzuki MotoGP I would like to say well done to Casey Stoner, Ducati and Bridgestone for a well deserved World Championship. We'll be working overtime between now and the start of next season to make sure we are in a position to compete with them in 2008."

credit: rizla suzuki

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Series MotoGP
Drivers Loris Capirossi , John Hopkins , Chris Vermeulen , Paul Denning , Casey Stoner , Kousuke Akiyoshi , Phillip Island