Rizla Suzuki riders Alvaro Bautista and John Hopkins were both in positive mood after an impressive start to the Czech Republic Grand Prix weekend.
The two GSV-R machines were seventh and eighth in FP1 before falling behind Valentino Rossi's Ducati in the afternoon but Bautista is still confident of a strong weekend. The Spaniard was also pleased to get his first real taste of Brno on a MotoGP bike after injuring himself last year.
“Today was my first full MotoGP day at Brno when fully fit, so I am pleased to have done that. Last year I crashed in the second free practice and the rest of the weekend was quite hard for me. The first thing today was to get a good feeling with the bike, but this morning I felt the bike slide a bit in the corners, this might have been because the track was a bit dirty, but we made a change that also helped to improve the problem.”
“I can do a long run with used tyres and after 26 laps my rhythm was good and I could do low 58s. We then put in a new front and rear tyre and I was able to push a bit more, but I found some traffic on the last laps and I couldn't improve my time. I am happy with today because I have done the fastest lap I've ever done at Brno, my previous best was 59.1 and today I did 57.8 so that is a good improvement. I have a good feeling with the bike and I'm sure we can improve the rhythm and the lap-time, so on Saturday we will work on a couple of things to do that. I am really looking forward to tomorrow because I think we can make a good position in qualifying to get a good start in Sunday's race.”
Teammate Hopkins is riding as a wildcard in a break from his usual duties in the British Superbike Championship and the American is grateful for the opportunity.
“First of all I want to give a massive thanks to Suzuki, Paul Denning, Rizla, Fixi and all the other sponsors that have made this possible. The have all helped to ensure that the team has two bikes here at Brno, so once again thanks to all concerned. It's been a big culture shock today, the most elite riders in the world are all packed in the MotoGP field, but it has still been a good day for us. When I rode in Jerez my mindset was still with prototype racing, because I hadn't quite got into Superbike riding, but all this year I've got very comfortable with a Superbike and so coming into this weekend I was a bit afraid it would all feel totally different and I couldn't ride a GP bike anymore – luckily that wasn't the case!”
Hopkins stunned everyone in the first session by outpacing Bautista, with only the factory Honda and Yamaha bikes ahead of him, but feels he should be able to go even quicker tomorrow.
“I tried to get comfortable this morning and follow as many people as possible, because to be honest I need as much help as I can get at the moment! I was well within the top-10 this morning and I managed to follow Ãlvaro and he showed me some lines – which was really cool – I was very happy with that, and the fact that he didn't get upset and just let me follow. This afternoon we tried a few things with the bike to see where we could improve, but we never really went too far away from the set-up we had this morning. We used a couple of tyre variations to see how they worked and that gives us something to go on for the rest of the weekend. I did a quicker lap today than my best lap here before, which was in the race in 2007, so that was a good thing.”
“I'll now sleep with the track on my mind and come back a lot better tomorrow morning, I'm sure if I can get more comfortable on the bike and find a rhythm, then I can get at least half-of-a-second of my time from today.”