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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Kawasaki Talk to Hopkins, Melandri - Elias to Suzuki.

Confident that they have now produced a bike capable of winning races, Kawasaki are now seeking riders who can deliver results and have already opened talks with Rizla Suzuki's John Hopkins and Gresini Honda's Marco Melandri for 2008. Normally this kind of discussion only surfaces later in the season, but such is the frenzied state of almost everything in MotoGP these days that several teams have already started planning for next year.

"We've looked at John Hopkins and Marco Melandri and a couple of others," Kawasaki's communications manager Ian Wheeler confirmed at Mugello. "We have some time to look around and assess form while the 800 class starts to settle down, but the decision will be made soon. We want someone who can win races, and who can continue the development of the bike."Kawasaki accept that their existing riders Randy de Puniet and Olivier Jacques have had injury-plagued starts to the season. But they want both riders to achieve the finishes that reflect the bike's potential. "Kawasaki's engineers knew that corner speed would be crucial for the 800s, so the bike is designed to be very good in turning, steering and handling," Wheeler said. "The power curve also had to be as linear as possible, and what we have seen in the last three to four races is that we're not losing anything to other bikes on speed out of the turns."

Meanwhile, Honda Gresini's Toni Elias is expected to sign for a new Suzuki satellite team that will be formed for 2008 by Jorge Martinez 'Aspar', Spain's former 80 and 125cc world champion and now a team owner in the 125 and 250cc classes, with Suzuki's former 500cc world champion Kevin Schwantz working as a team advisor. It will be a one-rider team running on Bridgestone tyres like the factory Suzukis, and the launch could be as soon as next weekend at the Catalunya round in Barcelona. Rizla Suzuki chief Paul Denning would prefer to retain his existing riders Hopkins and Chris Vermeulen, but has to be ready should either defect, and has already had initial talks with Melandri. Denning is also a big fan of Loris Capirossi, should he leave Ducati Marlboro.Where does this leave James Toseland? There may be an opening for him in Luis d'Antin's Pramac Ducati squad or in one of the satellite Honda teams, but for the moment he and his manager Roger Burnett are focussing on trying to deliver the World Superbike championship with Ten Kate Honda.

Monday, June 04, 2007

High five for Hopkins in Italy

Rizla Suzuki MotoGP racer John Hopkins powered his way through the MotoGP field during today’s Italian Grand Prix at Mugello to finish in a fantastic fifth place.
Hopkins started from ninth position on the grid and started his fight right from the beginning of the 23-lap race. By lap eight he had moved up into fourth place and was challenging for a podium. The Anglo-American was unable to match the top speed of the Ducatis of Casey Stoner and Alex Barros along Mugello’s front straight, and although he battled to the end he had to settle for a hard-earned fifth position.
Chris Vermeulen began the race from the front row and got off to a good start, before his inexperience at the Italian circuit caused him to drop back. He found his rhythm in the middle of the race as he got involved in tussle with World Champion Nicky Hayden. Vermeulen finally got the better of Hayden later on and finished strongly as he also passed Marco Melandri in the closing stages to finish eighth.
Today’s race was held in dry conditions with sporadic warm sunshine bathing over 80,000 frenzied Italian fans at trackside. They were treated to a sixth consecutive home GP victory by Valentino Rossi – the first rider ever to complete this feat at their home track.
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP stays in third place in the team’s championship and will be looking to consolidate that position as it moves on to Barcelona in Spain for round seven of the MotoGP World Championship next weekend.

John Hopkins:
“It was a busy race, but an enjoyable one to say the least! We would have liked to have kept the podium streak going for Rizla Suzuki, but it was not to be today. It was really hard going at the start and I got involved in a bit of a dogfight with Valentino, which was really enjoyable – it was close racing but fun! The group then sort of bunched up a bit and then suddenly Rossi, Pedrosa and Stoner started to make a break and I knew I had to stay with them. I busted my butt to keep up there and the Bridgestone tyres performed great. I think we chose the right tyres today considering the amount of dry track time we had in practice. The bike was awesome out there, especially on the brakes – the amount of stability it has under braking is amazing! The mechanics did a fantastic job this weekend considering the conditions they had to work in, so a big thanks to them. We are now ready to go to Catalunya – a track I really like – and see what we can do there!”

Chris Vermeulen:
“It was nice to start from the front row as it gave me a good opportunity. I got a decent start and followed Stoner early on, but I just couldn’t hang in there with the top group. I got passed by a couple of guys and to be truthful I was a bit inexperienced with the circuit. I went down the field and my times dropped off quicker than everyone else, although at the end they were quite similar. We got some good points and eighth is pretty good from a track that we knew was going to be hard work. Hopefully now we can go to some circuits that are a bit more familiar to us and get back up there challenging!”

Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“The field got a bit spread out in the final third of the race, but there is no doubt that the first two-thirds made up for that – with both Rizla Suzukis in the thick of the action. From ninth on the grid John did everything that we expect of him these days and went bar-to-bar with the best riders in the world to force his way into a podium challenge. Fifth is not his best result of the season, but having used up his tyres early with his aggressive charge to the front it was a fantastic ride!
“Chris is still a relative newcomer to Mugello and couldn’t quite hang with the pace early on. He certainly learnt a lot out there and got into a good rhythm, he managed to tough it out in the last few laps to pass Hayden and Melandri. These are big names on factory bikes, and although eighth is not where Chris wants to be he can take a lot from this race as we head to Barcelona.”

Gran Premio D’Italia Alice Race Classification:
1. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 42’42.385: 2. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) +3.074: 3. Alex Barros (Ducati) +5.956: 4. Casey Stoner (Ducati) + 6.012: 5. JOHN HOPKINS (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) +13.244: 8. CHRIS VERMEULEN (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) +22.810:
World Championship Classification:
1. Stoner 115: 2. Rossi 106: 3. Pedrosa 82: 4. Marco Melandri (Honda) 68: 5 CHRIS VERMEULEN (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) 63: 6. JOHN HOPKINS (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) 59:

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