Rizla Suzuki MotoGP racer John Hopkins completed 2007's first test at Sepang in Malaysia today with a simulated race distance, bettering his 990cc race time from 2006 by an incredible seven seconds.
The Anglo-American star conducted the long distance test during the hottest part of the day, with track surface temperatures rising to over 60°C. His overall time for the twenty flying laps was 41 minutes and one second, in comparison to his 2006 time of 41'08. The new Suzuki GSV-R800 performed with consistency over the race simulation and, allied to the latest generation of Bridgestone race tyres, the Rizla Suzuki MotoGP package is looking increasingly competitive for the forthcoming season.
Hopkins and team-mate Chris Vermeulen also tested some of the latest Bridgestone qualifying tyres for the first time on an 800cc Suzuki and were able to give very consistent data to the engineers. Hopkins recorded a quickest time of 2'01.026 with Vermeulen clocking a fastest time of 2'01.691 on their qualifiers to give them second and fifth place respectively on the timesheets.
Vermeulen also completed a race simulation and was very pleased with the results, even though he was hampered by the weather half way through as rain started to lightly fall. He completed 43 laps today and recorded his best ever lap around Sepang. Hopkins completed 38 laps and the data that he and Vermeulen collected will prove valuable to themselves, the team and Suzuki's hard-working engineers as they move forward onto the next test.
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP now travels to Phillip Island in Australia for the second test of 2007, starting on Tuesday 30th January. The first race of the MotoGP season is in Qatar on Saturday 10th March.
"I'm really happy with the way the week has gone. We've got a new bike here so at first we needed to get it set-up, which we did on the first day to the way I liked it and from then it's only been simple little changes. We have tested a lot of tyres for Bridgestone and everything has been going really well. Today I tried some qualifiers as I'd never used them on the 800 before and it was good to see how they worked. Then I did a race distance and I'm really excited about how that went! We did it at the hottest part of the day and we managed to run a very competitive time. Everything at the moment feels good and overall I'm thoroughly happy with it. This is a big year for me and I've got a couple of new personal sponsors with Monster Energy drinks and Amp'd Mobile coming on board, so I really want to do well for them as well as for Suzuki, Rizla and all the people who have supported us!"
"It has been a good test on the whole. We got three good days of dry weather - which is unusual here in Malaysia - and we've got through lots of work. We tested front, rear and qualifying tyres from Bridgestone, as well as a lot of Suzuki test items. John and I both had the 2007 bike which was good to use and found some good things with it. I went quicker and quicker and I did my fastest ever lap around the circuit during this test. This afternoon we did a race distance which was quicker than I did in the race last year - even with some rain falling over on the back of the circuit. I felt really comfortable out there and I am now looking to getting to Phillip Island and carrying on from here!"
Paul Denning - Team Manager:
"The test couldn't have gone any better, apart from maybe Mr Rossi going 0.09 slower on his qualifier so that John would have been fastest on all three days! The new 2007 GSV-R has further improved from the prototype that we used last year. Both riders got through a mountain of work and the reliability and consistency of the new bike has been superb. Obviously it's nice to be on the top of the timesheets, but it is more pleasing to see how competitive we were on the long runs during the final day. We have also provided the Bridgestone guys with lots of good data to assist them with their development programme.
It's great to start the year with a base package that works well and is giving the riders good confidence, but we know that the competition is already at a good level and will no doubt improve rapidly over the forthcoming tests. We still have areas of the bike that could improve and the factory will be focusing on them quite aggressively over the next few weeks. We won't get too carried away over these results from Sepang because this is a good track for Bridgestone and, historically, a relatively good one for the GSV-R. We are looking forward to getting to Australia and hoping that we can be close to the other bikes around there as we struggled a bit last year. If we can come away from Phillip Island with a positive test result then everyone at Rizla Suzuki MotoGP will be very much looking forward to the first Grand Prix of the season!"