Rizla Suzuki MotoGP racer John Hopkins scored his best ever MotoGP finish with fourth place during today’s Polini Grand Prix of China in Shanghai.

The Anglo-American star got off to a great start from the front row of
the grid and ran in second place for over a third of the race. He was
passed by eventual winner Dani Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden – both on Honda’s – on lap 10 but continued with his strong pace and chased down Colin Edwards.

Hopkins tried everything to get past Edwards but just couldn’t find the extra speed from his Rizla Suzuki GSV-R to do so. After settling for his hard fought position two laps from the end, he wheeled his bike across the line in fourth place in front of his cheering crew.

Chris Vermeulen had a less happy day. Starting in 12th place he fought hard with several riders early on but a mistake on lap four caused the rookie Australian to crash out. He was unhurt in the incident, but was unable to remount and carry on racing.

The race was watched by over 32,000 excited and warm fans as temperatures reached 31°C. Spaniard Dani Pedrosa won his first-ever MotoGP race and second placed Hayden now leads the championship by 13 points. The next Round of the 2006 MotoGP World Championship is at Le Mans in France on Sunday 21st May.

John Hopkins:

“I’m ecstatic right now! I feel really good about the whole race. I got off the line well and worked hard all through the race. I knew I had to be in the draft of another bike and not to use my tires up too early. I got behind Colin Edwards and let him pull me along. We were passed by Nicky and Dani and they were running an unbelievable pace – it was something we couldn’t keep with. From then on I stuck on Colin’s wheel and thought I’d have a bit more towards the end. I started to push harder in the last few laps but it was going beyond the limit and at the end of the day I really wanted to finish in my best ever position – so that’s what I did!

“I have got to give a big thanks to my whole crew; they worked fantastically all weekend and without them I wouldn’t be anywhere – they’re a lot of the reason why I am here at Suzuki. The Bridgestone tires worked awesome today. I reckon I had a bit more edge grip than Colin and they were still working well at the end of the race.

“I am really happy and I just also want to say it’s my Mum’s birthday, so Happy Birthday to her and Happy American Mother’s Day to her as well – I hope she was pleased with the finish!”
Chris Vermeulen:

“Obviously not the result we wanted. I didn’t finish and I didn’t get any points – that’s the worst thing. It was difficult all weekend with the weather and learning a new track. The bike felt really good in the race though and everybody seemed really even. I was behind Randy de Puniet, he was holding me up a bit and I made a mistake and nearly ran into the back of him and pushed a bit too hard and lost the front – but hey, that’s racing! I hope I can learn from that mistake and don’t do it again. Full congratulations to John and the whole team – it was a great result for Rizla Suzuki.”

Paul Denning – Team Manager:

“A fantastic performance from John and the whole Rizla Suzuki team. We thought before the race that a top 10 position would be a good result in today’s conditions, but to see the bike run towards the front for the whole of the race was beyond our expectations. I believe that today John came of age as a MotoGP rider and demonstrated his true potential.

“Chris was very unlucky with his crash; he was pushing hard to move forward and a simple mistake cost him his race. I know he will bounce back from this and show the kind of form he can at Le Mans next weekend.

“The GSV-R never missed a beat all weekend and the result shows how far we have come in the last few races. Suzuki has worked very hard to get the bike more consistent and I think that the positions we have been in over the last three days have shown that it is able to run well in all conditions. We are still searching for that extra mid-range power and I am sure that when we get the full potential out of the bike we will be able to push for podiums.

“I must thank Bridgestone; they responded fantastically after the last race and the tires we have had here have been superb – both wet and dry.

“Finally big thanks and well done once again to the crew, they consistently give 100% effort and are the biggest asset of the team. Today’s result is a great reward for all their hard work and gives everybody motivation to keep pushing.”

Polini Grand Prix of China Race Classification:

1. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)44’07.734
2. Nicky Hayden (Honda) +1.505
3. Colin Edwards (Yamaha)+14.634
4. John Hopkins (Rizla Suzuki MotoGP) +19.265
DNF. Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki MotoGP)

World Championship Classification:
1. Hayden (Honda) 72
2. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) 59
3. Pedrosa 57
12. John Hopkins (Rizla Suzuki MotoGP)20
14. Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki MotoGP) 13


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