Malaysian GP: Rizla Suzuki preview

Three is the magic number for Rizla Suzuki MotoGP Rizla Suzuki MotoGP travels to Sepang in Malaysia this weekend with a three strong rider team looking to consolidate - if not improve upon - its third place in the team's championship and with both...

Three is the magic number for Rizla Suzuki MotoGP Rizla Suzuki MotoGP travels to Sepang in Malaysia this weekend with a three strong rider team looking to consolidate - if not improve upon - its third place in the team's championship and with both regular riders still in with a chance of third position overall in their respective battle.

Team Test Rider Nobuatsu Aoki will join John Hopkins and Chris Vermeulen at the penultimate round of the season, for his first GP outing of the year. The 36-year-old will be riding an early prototype version of Suzuki's 2008 GSV-R, which he will also continue to test on the Monday after the race.

Hopkins and Vermeulen head to Malaysia in fourth and fifth places respectively in the rider's championship and both racers have a chance to better their positions in the final two races of the season. Both were buoyed by their race performances in Australia last weekend after they produced strong top-eight finishes after what had -- up till raceday - been a tough weekend. They are both confident of putting on a good performance with the battle for the top Suzuki rider for 2007 still up for grabs, with just five points separating the two.

The Sepang International Circuit is situated near the thriving and cosmopolitan Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, and is one of the most modern on the MotoGP calendar. With long straights either side of its imposing grandstands, combined with slower corners and fast sweeping bends, it offers a bit of everything for all riders and machines, which is why it is such a favoured test circuit for many MotoGP teams.

Hopkins, Vermeulen and Aoki take to the 5.548km track on Friday morning for the first of two free practice sessions, with a third on Saturday AM. Saturday afternoon will see the hour-long qualifying session as all three will be going for the best grid positions they can get. Sunday's 21-lap race is round 17 on the MotoGP calendar and the action gets underway at 15.00hrs local time (07.00hrsGMT).

John Hopkins:

"I'm really excited about coming to Malaysia. It is one of my favourite tracks and with all the testing we do here it is also the track I have been around the most. The bike worked well here last year and when we came here for pre-season testing we were competitive from the start. I was happy to be able to put in a strong performance in Australia and get my best ever result there, so that also looks good for this race. The Bridgestone tyres have come on a long way this year and we know they were good at Sepang in recent years so I am hoping for really big things to happen this weekend!"

Chris Vermeulen:

"We had a much better result in the race last weekend than our qualifying suggested, and that is a testament to how well the Suzuki and the Bridgestone tyres are working together and also of how hard the whole team worked. We are now going to a track where we have already tested the 800 and we know it went pretty well around there. I was ill at Sepang last year and only managed to finish 11th, I know I can do a lot better than that and I'm sure that we will be right up there and in amongst the action right from the first session on Friday."

Nobuatsu Aoki: "I am really looking forward to the race and it is a great honour for me to be the first person to ride the 2008 GSV-R in an event. It is still in a prototype stage, but we have already done some testing on it and are very confident it will be good. I cannot wait to get out racing again it feels like a very long time since I last competed!"

-credit: suzuki-racing.com

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Series MotoGP
Drivers John Hopkins , Chris Vermeulen , Nobuatsu Aoki