US Grand Prix pole setter and Bridgestone-shod Suzuki rider Chris Vermeulen ended an agonising 32-lap race at Laguna Seca this afternoon in fifth position having been in strong contention for podium finish with just three laps until the chequered...
US Grand Prix pole setter and Bridgestone-shod Suzuki rider Chris Vermeulen ended an agonising 32-lap race at Laguna Seca this afternoon in fifth position having been in strong contention for podium finish with just three laps until the chequered flag.
Vermeulen led the first half of the race but was passed by eventual race winner Nicky Hayden on lap 17. Even though he was forced to yield to Dani Pedrosa on lap 26, the Suzuki was still looking good for a first 2006 podium, until a technical problem dropped him to fifth in the closing stages. The result still marks his best Moto GP finish of the season, one better than his sixth place at the Catalan Grand Prix last month and his race pace underlined the competitiveness of the Bridgestone tyres at Laguna Seca this weekend.
Vermeulen finished one place ahead of his Suzuki team-mate John Hopkins who took sixth place in his home grand prix, elevating him to ninth place in the riders' classification on 74 points. Two places further back was Ducati rider Loris Capirossi who adds another eight points to his championship tally after a difficult weekend in Monterey. His team-mate Sete Gibernau rounded off the top ten and earned himself six championship points from an equally tough US GP. Kawasaki also endured a problematic race with Shinya Nakano retiring from a top ten position with a technical issue on lap 16, whilst Randy de Puniet propelled himself from 19th at the end of the opening lap to a points-paying 12th place.
The sweltering Californian heat turned the US GP into a race of endurance as the newly-laid asphalt placed increasing demands on the tyres over the gruelling 32 laps. Bridgestone is pleased with the performance of its Laguna Seca tyres which saw Vermeulen amongst the quickest on the track until his technical trouble cruelly denied him a debut podium finish. Bridgestone has worked positively with each of its teams to help them extract the best from the tyres this weekend and derives significant encouragement from the consistency shown over the full race distance in spite of the difficulties faced by some teams.
Chris Vermeulen Suzuki 5th place: "Everything went pretty well at the start, the bike was running well and we made what I think was the best tyre choice. Thanks to my whole team and Bridgestone for helping me today. But about 12 laps from the end the bike started cutting out, it was not running smoothly and it was hesitating on corner entry - this was making it so hard to ride. It got worse and worse and I only just brought it home. In fact three turns after the end of the race it stopped completely! I'm really disappointed that I didn't get a podium but I think we have proved how strong the Suzuki, Bridgestone tyres and the whole team were here this weekend, and hopefully we can continue this performance."
In attendance today, Sugio Fukuoka, Bridgestone Corporation Vice-President and Officer: "I would like to extend my thanks to each of our teams and riders for solid work this weekend. It was particularly pleasing to see Chris Vermeulen on pole and it was a shame he was denied a debut podium. Our tyres performed well in today's race, but I look forward to the remaining races of the season where I am sure we can return to the podium and hopefully challenge for some victories."
Hiroshi Yamada - Bridgestone Motorsport - Motorcycle Racing Manager: "That was a tough race for all involved, for machines, tyres and riders. The intense heat has really transformed this weekend's race into a battle of the fittest. Chris did a fantastic job and was able to lead up until the midway point and could even retain second place until technical trouble relegated him to third place.
With a podium still looking likely, he suddenly found himself unable to keep pace and saw his podium taken with just three laps to go.
It is a real shame for Chris and Suzuki to miss out on their debut podium this season, but we congratulate them for their strong showing, which demonstrated the full performance of the Bridgestone tyre-Suzuki bike package. We are pleased that both Ducati and Kawasaki were able to take some valuable points away from a difficult grand prix weekend. Now we have three weeks before the next event in Brno, a race where Loris finished second last year for Bridgestone and Ducati. With that memory to spur us on, our development and work will not stop even if Moto GP can enjoy a deserved break before heading to the Czech Republic in mid-August."