Rizla Suzuki Team Manager Paul Denning believes a podium finish is possible on Sunday after a strong start to the weekend for Alvaro Bautista. The Spaniard was seventh quickest with John Hopkins 14th on his return to the series and Denning was pleased with the performance of both and excited at the potential for more tomorrow.
“Ãƒlvaro's pace is better than his position, he equalled his best lap with race distance on the tyres and I think he can go a lot quicker tomorrow. The GSV-R is working well and if everything goes in the right direction I think Ãƒlvaro has a chance to fight for the podium on Sunday.”
“John's been through a lot physically in the last couple of months, and that combined with the shock of the way the MotoGP bike works compared to the Superbike, held him back a little bit today. I am sure that with a good night's sleep he will be quite a bit closer to his best tomorrow.”
Given the strategy he was running to, Bautista was encouraged by his pace and will now turn his attentions to the GSV-R's qualifying set-up, starting in FP3 tomorrow morning.
“Today has been quite a good day for us and I am in seventh position, which is not too bad for a Friday. This morning we tried a different setting on the bike, similar to the one we used in Australia, and we preferred that one so we carried on with that this afternoon. We continued with the soft tyres we had been using this morning during this afternoon's session and I did more than race distance with them, and the rhythm felt good. In the middle of the second practice I tried a harder rear tyre, but I didn't feel too much initial grip and it didn't give me as much feedback as the softer one. We have got some good information on the tyres now and I think we will use the softer one for the race, if the conditions are similar to today. I will try to improve tomorrow in FP3 and then get a good lap in qualifying, so I am in the best possible position for the race.”
Hopkins was riding a MotoGP bike for the first time since August and spent the day acclimatising himself to the GSR-V. The American feels there is plenty of speed to find and hopes to make a step forward in qualifying.
“Today has just been about getting comfortable on the bike and building my confidence back up to be able to ride a MotoGP machine. My main thing was getting the confidence in the tyres, because unlike at Jerez and Brno, where the tyres gave me a good feedback and I was able to get used to them straight off the bat, here with the temperatures and humidity I am spinning up a bit and struggling a bit with rear grip. It's probably not so much struggling as getting used to how it's working and getting the bike picked up at the right time out of the corners. I feel quite strong in some of the parts of the track, but coming out of some of the corners I'm not quite where I want to be, which is mostly due to my rider technique and getting back on terms with the bike. The day wasn't too bad for us, but I think we can improve a lot tomorrow. I will think about the track tonight and I'm looking forward to the rest of the weekend.”