Malaysian GP: Rizla Suzuki Saturday notes

Vermeulen heads the third row after Sepang qualifying Rizla Suzuki MotoGP racer Chris Vermeulen will start tomorrow's Malaysian Grand Prix from the front of the third row after qualifying in seventh place today. Vermeulen (2'02.301, 23...

Vermeulen heads the third row after Sepang qualifying

Rizla Suzuki MotoGP racer Chris Vermeulen will start tomorrow's Malaysian Grand Prix from the front of the third row after qualifying in seventh place today.

Vermeulen (2'02.301, 23 laps) had shown huge improvements in this morning's final free practice session and had taken over three-and-a-half seconds off his time on race tyres since yesterday's first practice session. His increase in performance continued into the qualifying session and the Australian star will be looking to carry on with his upward curve during tomorrow's race.

John Hopkins (2'02.697, 21 laps) will start immediately behind team-mate Vermeulen, as he heads the fourth row after setting the 10th quickest time. The Anglo-American also showed a marked increase in his times during this morning's session, setting the third fastest lap-time. He will be trying to get one of his now trademark fast starts as he goes for as many points as possible tomorrow in his chase for third in the championship.

Team Test Rider Nobuatsu Aoki (2'04.604, 18 laps) again gave the prototype 2008 GSV-R another thorough work-out today and was amongst the fastest riders through the start-finish line speed trap. He will start from 19th on the grid and is determined to improve considerably on his grid position in the race.

Today's qualifying was held in hot and overcast conditions with track surface temperatures reaching 58C. Pole position was set by Dani Pedrosa on his factory Honda.

Tomorrow's 21-lap race is the penultimate round of the MotoGP season and the event gets underway at 15.00hrs local time (07.00hrs GMT).

Chris Vermeulen:

"It was difficult this afternoon as the track temperature rose a lot and what we thought we had sorted as a race tyre didn't work that well. So we tried another tyre and the lap-times came quite easily and the rubber lasted well, so we now have a set-up for the race. On the qualifiers it was great because we tried something new and Bridgestone has made a really good job with that. I was a bit tentative at the start of my best lap and made a mistake on turn two; if I hadn't then I am sure I would have been higher up the grid. I've been comfortable here this weekend and for me that is good as it has been a bit of a bogey track for me. Suzuki and Bridgestone have always seemed to work well here and now I am happy that I can get into that groove as well."

John Hopkins:

"It was a tough afternoon, but this morning went really well. We made a lot of improvements and the bike worked great. This afternoon I just struggled to get myself into a rhythm and the tyres felt a bit greasy. On the qualifiers we tried some rubber that we hadn't used before and we didn't have any data about. It just didn't seem to suit my riding style and I wore the tyre out a bit too quick! There is no reason though why we still can't run at the front tomorrow, we've just got to come out swinging, make a good start and get up to the front as quick as possible!"

Nobuatsu Aoki:

"During the qualifying session I had a small problem with my first bike and had to use the other one. It didn't have the same feel as the one we have been using and didn't work quite as well. I tried as hard as I could but the chassis and engine just didn't feel as good. The tyres I chose for qualifying were not quite right either and they just didn't seem to suit the bike so I now have to start in 19th place. I am optimistic for the race as the setting we have for the race tyre is good and I am confident I can get a top-10 finish tomorrow!"

Paul Denning - Team Manager:

We took big steps in this morning's session but the much hotter conditions in qualifying seemed to lose a bit of our potential compared to some of our competitors. Having said that, the direction that the guys need to go in terms of tyres and setting is a lot clearer and assuming we get similar conditions at race-time I think we will be better prepared.

"The qualifying result was a little bit disappointing after this morning, but Chris rode a great lap on his final tyre and only just missed out on the second row. John's disappointed but fortunately we can almost rely on one of his great starts and aggressive passing these days. So, we are confident of a much improved position in the race.

"Nobu had a tough session, which is only to be expected with a prototype machine, but I am sure he will bounce back and give it everything during the 21-laps tomorrow afternoon."


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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers John Hopkins , Chris Vermeulen , Nobuatsu Aoki , Paul Denning , Dani Pedrosa