John Hopkins and Chris Vermeulen quickly got to terms with the newly configured Assen circuit today as both riders topped the leaderboard at some point during the first day’s practice for the Dutch Grand Prix.

Hopkins (P6. 1’38.659, 49 laps) and Vermeulen (P7, 1’38.720, 49 laps) both worked hard with their respective crews as they learnt the new layout of this famous track. Hopkins was pleased with his first day’s work as he concentrated on finding the best Bridgestone tyres for his Rizla Suzuki GSV-R. His quickest lap was only 0.515 seconds behind the day’s fastest time, set by Colin Edwards on his factory Yamaha.

Vermeulen worked with his technicians on some completely new Ohlins front fork strategies and was happy with the result. He was marginally behind team-mate Hopkins on the time-sheets but is sure that he can find some extra time tomorrow, and is confident of a good result this weekend.

Today’s first session was held in difficult conditions as intermittent rain meant that none of the riders could get a constant run on the track. This afternoon stayed fine and dry but there was a constant threat of rain in the air, allied to some very strong winds blowing across the Dutch flat-lands. Tomorrow will see Rizla Suzuki MotoGP have its final practice session before qualifying in the afternoon. Round eight of the MotoGP World Championship gets underway on Saturday 24th June at 14.00hrs local time (12.00hrs GMT).

John Hopkins:

“We had an extra half hour this morning but it wasn’t very useful as we were in and out because of the weather. We really only just got a feel for the track and learn which way it goes. This afternoon we were able to get down to business and start working with the tyres. We are trying to get the best out of the Bridgestones and seeing which one will be the best for durability and grip for Saturday. The mechanics will be working hard tonight on some settings and everything. All in all it wasn’t a bad day, we had a bit of wind out there so that could affect some of the data, but we are looking forward to tomorrow and getting everything right for the race.”

Chris Vermeulen:

“This is the first time on the new Assen circuit for everyone and it was good to have the extra time this morning. Unfortunately we had rain again – which is not unusual at a Grand Prix weekend. Things are going quite good though, Ohlins have brought some new parts for the suspension and they seemed to work well. We have tried a few tyres and I was happy with those also. We got a full dry session this afternoon and we learnt quite a lot, hopefully we have got a direction for a race set-up.”

Paul Denning – Team Manager:

“There has been a lot of discussion about the racetrack – good and bad – but it’s the same for all the riders and it needs to be approached with enthusiasm to get the best out of it. The chassis setting of the GSV-R appears to be somewhere close for here and we managed to get a good amount of work done in the drier second session – despite the high winds. We have verified some new stuff that both the riders have been working with. It is difficult to assess the real situation today with some riders clearly injured and others putting in the odd fast lap – but not doing long runs – it’s kind of tough to know where Rizla Suzuki sits at the moment. It does look though like both riders and bikes are performing well – we will be a lot better informed by the end of tomorrow.”

A-Style TT Assen Free Practice Classification:

1. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1’38.144: 2. Carlos Checa (Yamaha) +0.115: 3. Casey Stoner (Honda) +0.272: 6. JOHN HOPKINS (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) +0.515: 7. CHRIS VERMEULEN (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) +0.576:


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