Tough day for Rizla Suzuki at Sepang
20 October 2007 – It was a difficult day for the Suzuki team at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia today.
The qualifying session was held in hot overcast conditions with high track surface temperatures. Chris Vermeulen qualified 7th on the grid with a time of 2:02,697s, while John Hopkins could only manage the 10th position, with a time of 2:02.697s. The teams test rider Nobuatsu Aoki, who was riding the prototype 2008 GSV-R finished with the 19th best time of the day, but was however one of the fastest riders through the start finish line speed trap.
Chris Vermeulen explained his day as follows: "It was difficult this afternoon as the track temperature rose a lot and what we thought we had sorted as a race tyre didn't work that well. So we tried another tyre and the lap-times came quite easily and the rubber lasted well, so we now have a set-up for the race. On the qualifiers it was great because we tried something new and Bridgestone has made a really good job with that. I was a bit tentative at the start of my best lap and made a mistake on turn two; if I hadn't then I am sure I would have been higher up the grid. I've been comfortable here this weekend and for me that is good as it has been a bit of a bogey track for me. Suzuki and Bridgestone have always seemed to work well here and now I am happy that I can get into that groove as well."
Although American John Hopkins showed a marked increase in the mornings practice with the 3rd fastest time, he found qualifying difficult, because of a lack of grip. He said: "It was a tough afternoon, but this morning went really well. We made a lot of improvements and the bike worked great. This afternoon I just struggled to get myself into a rhythm and the tyres felt a bit greasy. On the qualifiers we tried some rubber that we hadn't used before and we didn't have any data about. It just didn't seem to suit my riding style and I wore the tyre out a bit too quick! There is no reason though why we still can't run at the front tomorrow, we've just got to come out swinging, make a good start and get up to the front as quick as possible!"
So although the Rizla Suzuki team only occupy the 3rd, 4th and last rows on the grid all 3 riders are looking to have a strong race tomorrow with Hopkins hoping to gain as many points as possible in his chase for 3rd the riders championship race.