Chris Vermeulen raced to his and Rizla Suzuki MotoGP’s first Grand Prix win at a rain-soaked Le Mans today.

Vermeulen rode an almost faultless race in the wet after heavy rain started to fall over the 4.180km French circuit. He entered pit-lane at the end of lap nine to change to his wet-weather prepared Suzuki GSV-R. Within two laps he hit the front and never looked under threat all the way to the chequered flag, the impressive Australian finishing the race over 12 seconds in front of the second-placed man Marco Melandri. World Championship leader Casey Stoner finished third to give Bridgestone tyres a clean sweep on the podium.

Vermeulen now moves up to fifth place in the MotoGP World Championship with Rizla Suzuki MotoGP going up to third in the team’s championship.

John Hopkins looked like he was going to follow up his podium at China last time out with another one today. He produced a number of stunning laps – including the fastest lap of the race – to move into first place on lap nine. After he entered the pit-lane on the next lap to change to his wet bike, he was unable to sustain his momentum and also suffered with a few issues with the set-up of his GSV-R.

Hopkins brought his bike home in seventh place for his fourth top-seven finish of the year, a result that puts him into sixth place in the overall classification.

Rizla Suzuki MotoGP will now stay in France for a day of testing before the MotoGP circus moves across Europe for round six of the championship at Mugello in Italy on Sunday June 3rd.

Chris Vermeulen:

“I’m absolutely over the moon! I am really happy for myself, my crew and everyone involved in the team. We’d had a difficult weekend coming into the race as not everything quite went to plan – but we were getting quicker and quicker and I’m sure if it had been dry today we would have improved more. The conditions were slippery to start with and it was difficult to know how hard to push. Some guys came past me and then a lap or so later they crashed! It started to rain quite heavy and I decided to come in and change my bike. I came back out and just stuck my head down and tried to get the tyres up to heat up as quick as possible. The bike felt really good in the rain, but as it got heavier it made it hard to hold the bike in top gear down the straight – there was so much water it was just spinning the rear! Tom O’Kane – my Crew Chief – and the rest of the guys gave me a really good wet bike today as we hadn’t done much wet testing with the new 800. The tyre choice was spot-on and the bike was certainly good enough to win on!”

John Hopkins:

“Firstly I want to say well done to Chris and well done to Suzuki for standing on top of the podium. It is certainly an achievement to stand on the podium two races in a row; hopefully we can carry that streak on together. As for the race we chose one of the hardest slick rear tyres that we had, so I had to take it easy to get it up to temperature. Once it was there and I had confidence in it I was able to go from 12th to first in a short space of time. Everything was going fine until it started raining harder. I think we made the right decision when to come in to change the bike. I tried to get used to riding in the wet and it all seemed to be going alright, but we had some minor adjustment problems that hindered us a bit. At the end of the day I kept it on two wheels and finished the race with some good points. We will take the positives from this weekend and although I am disappointed to finish where I did after all the hard work we put in in the dry, it’s now time to move onto a lot of tracks that I enjoy and continue this podium streak for Rizla Suzuki!”

Paul Denning- Team Manager:

“Well done to Chris, to the whole team and to Suzuki for producing a motorcycle that is capable of producing podiums in both wet and dry conditions. It may have looked a bit ‘on the edge’ on television in some of the corners, but Chris assures us that he had it all under control out there. I will take his word for that as it was him out there and not me! He showed again his true level of bike control and talent. This should give him the confidence to push towards the front in all conditions over the busy weeks ahead.

“Seventh was not so bad for John, but I really feel for him given that his performance level was that of a podium finisher all weekend. He had some small issues with the wet bike, but he had shown his determination to get to the front and win a GP by coming from 12th to first in a matter of laps before the rain really started.

“We still have a lot to do in the test tomorrow and we hope it dries up enough to get through that programme. The whole team is certainly on a high at the moment and is heading towards Mugello looking for more of the same.”

Alice Grand Prix de France Race Classification: 1. Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki MotoGP) 50’58.713: 2. Marco Melandri (Honda) +12.599: 3. Casey Stoner (Ducati) +27.347: 4. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) +37.328: 5. Alex Hofmann +49.166. 7 John Hopkins (Rizla Suzuki MotoGP) +1’01.073.

World Championship Classification: 1. Stoner 102: 2. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 81: 3. Pedrosa 62: 4. Melandri 61: 5. Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki MotoGP) 556. John Hopkins (Rizla Suzuki MotoGP) 48.


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