Luckless Hopkins crashes out of Le Mans podium fight

Rizla Suzuki MotoGP racer John Hopkins crashed out of today’s Alice Grand Prix de France, when he looked odds on to collect his first ever podium, but the gutsy Anglo-American remounted and still managed to claim a point.

Hopkins made a superb start to the race and led for the first four laps, after which he was passed by Valentino Rossi – who was forced to retire later on – and Dani Pedrosa. He stayed in a comfortable third place close behind the two leaders, but crashed into the gravel trap unhurt on lap 10. He showed his determination by remounting and getting his Rizla Suzuki GSV-R back to the pits for some running repairs, before re-joining the race and finishing in 15th position.

 

Chris Vermeulen had a less eventful and somewhat lonely race, having improved on his 12th place start early on. He settled into a consistent rhythm and secured a top-10 finish from his first ever race at Le Mans. His lack of dry track time over the weekend counted against him during the latter part of the race, as he had been unable to collect enough important tyre data over the previous two days and tyre durability became an issue.

Today’s race was held in dry but overcast conditions with a constant threat of rain in the air. Over 76,000 spectators witnessed Marco Melandri win his second MotoGP of the season. American Nicky Hayden still leads the Championship.

The 2006 MotoGP World Championship now moves to the picturesque Tuscan surroundings of Mugello in Italy for round six on Sunday 4th June.

John Hopkins:

“I had a slight problem with the clutch. It was not right from the start of the race and if we had ridden at a slower pace then I think it would have been ok. I had to brake too hard to make up for a bit of time lost in acceleration, and the rear stepped out – once that had gone it just sent the front out and I crashed. But we have shown that the Rizla Suzuki has improved and so has Bridgestone and we have made it known that we can run at the front – it’s just a matter of time before that first podium comes. If anything it just makes me more motivated to do well on the next circuit, that’s for sure!”

 

Chris Vermeulen:

“We finished in the top 10 which is really what we were aiming for, but I wasn’t so happy with my pace over race distance. We didn’t get as much dry time as we wanted, and had hoped to try a few more things in this morning’s warm-up but it was wet so we were unable to. I went with the setting from yesterday and I was able to run a good pace early on but we didn’t have enough tyre data for durability and it faded a bit towards the end. I am happy enough with 10th place from my first French GP and hopefully we can improve on that position in Mugello.”

Paul Denning – Team Manager:

“A disappointing end to what looked to be a very promising race, but ultimately we have to take the positives out of the weekend. Despite Chris’ tyre choice not giving him the performance he needed for the second half of the race he kept the bike upright and brought it home in the top 10. He will also have learnt a lot about getting around the Le Mans circuit at race pace.

“I have to feel for John, but as I say we have to look at the positives. He made a fantastic start and showed a lot of confidence early on. He displayed a lot of composure when dicing with Rossi and Pedrosa and I’m sure his plan was to tag along with them and aim for that first podium. After the crash most riders would have left the bike there but it is very much in Rizla Suzuki’s character not to give up, and for John to come back into the pits, get the bike fixed and circulate for the rest of the race with a damaged machine to score a single point says a lot about his character.

“If points were given for effort I’m sure we would have got a lot more than we did at Le Mans today!”

Alice Grand Prix de France Race Classification:

1. Marco Melandri (Honda) 44’57.369: 2. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) +1.929: 3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) +2.269: 10. CHRIS VERMEULEN (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) +39.362: 15. JOHN HOPKINS (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) +2 LAPS:

World Championship Classification:

1. Nicky Hayden (Honda) 83: 2. Melandri 79: 3. Capirossi 79: 12. JOHN HOPKINS (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) 21: 14. CHRIS VERMEULEN (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) 19:

 

 

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