Rizla Suzuki MotoGP racer John Hopkins carried on his good run of form during the first day of practice for the Alice Grand Prix de France at Le Mans today.

Hopkins was consistently in the top five throughout the two practice sessions and his best time of 1’35.461 was good enough for fourth place overall, only 0.291 seconds off the fastest time set by Colin Edwards. He also completed a 20-lap run on one of the new generation Bridgestone tyres and was pleased with the result in readiness for Sunday’s 28-lap race. Hopkins also set the fastest speed of this afternoon’s session -288km/h – through Le Mans newly configured turn one.

Chris Vermeulen is riding at Le Mans for the first time ever and used both sessions to learn the lines of the famous Bugatti Circuit. He improved on his times throughout the day and will be looking to better his 16th place from today during tomorrow’s qualifying session.


Both of today’s sessions were held in dry but overcast conditions, but there was a constant threat of rain in the air, something that riders and teams were made acutely aware of when a heavy shower flooded the track at mid-day. Tomorrow will see Rizla Suzuki MotoGP have one more practice session and then an hour of qualifying in the afternoon. Sunday’s race is round five of the 2006 MotoGP World Championship and will begin at 14.00hrs local time (12.00hrs GMT).


John Hopkins:

“I’m glad it stayed dry through both of the sessions. We wanted to get the best setting that we can today, so that we can build on that tomorrow. From the start of the day we have been looking pretty decent and have only had to make a few suspension changes here and there. We have tried to spend a lot of time on the circuit and put in as many laps as possible to see what happens with the race tyre. Basically it’s been a pretty easy day and we’ve made improvements every time we’ve gone out. We’ll look to take further steps forward tomorrow and chase that first podium finish on Sunday.”

Chris Vermeulen:

“My first day at Le Mans and luckily we got two dry sessions as I need as much track time as possible. This morning I lost a bit of time but we were still able to get through a lot of things and I was able to learn the track. We have some ideas to change the bike for tomorrow and hopefully we can pick up some speed.”


Paul Denning – Team Manager:

“The MotoGP class was lucky today as it avoided the mid-day rain and had two dry sessions. This was extremely beneficial to us as this is Chris’ first visit here. He is disappointed with his position but the potential for him looks positive and I’m sure he will capitalise on today’s learning curve.

“John gave another superbly confident performance. He was always in the fastest group of riders and completed a 20-lap run early this afternoon to confirm the durability of one of the new Bridgestone tyres. He’s riding very well and the bike is looking increasingly competitive so we are looking forward to tomorrow, come rain or shine.”

Alice Grand Prix de France Free Practice Classification:

1. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1’35.170: 2. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) +0.112: 3. Shinya Nakano (Kawasaki) +0.277: 4. JOHN HOPKINS (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) +0.291: 16. CHRIS VERMEULEN (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) +1.734:



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