Hopkins ready to take Suzuki engine gamble

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American John Hopkins is willing to gamble on running a new Suzuki V4 800cc motor on the opening day of this weekend’s Turkish GP in Istanbul.

Suzuki rolled out a new motor for Hopkins and Rizla Suzuki team-mate Chris Vermeulen to test immediately after last month’s Spanish GP in Jerez, but rain prevented both from completing initial shakedown testing.

Designed to improve mid-range power and corner exit acceleration, Hopkins said he will risk running the new motor on Friday morning in a bid to bolster his chances of claiming an elusive first premier class podium.

The 23-year-old said: “I’d rather test it on Friday morning to see if it is going to help and if it does we should run it. If not we can easily go back to what we’ve raced in the first two races but I think it’s completely worth the gamble trying it on Friday morning.”

Hopkins reiterated his delight at Suzuki’s prompt response to his requests for the engine upgrades following Ducati’s blistering speed which helped Casey Stoner register his first MotoGP victory in the season’s opening race in Qatar.

He added: “I was really happy to see Suzuki had already made the change for the Jerez test. Qatar was where we really knew that’s where we had to make the change.

“I was definitely surprised because at no time in the past with Suzuki has a change ever been made that quick. I’m really happy with that and it just shows Suzuki’s dedication as well.”

Hopkins said the engine improvements would make overtaking easier with his bike able to accelerate out of corners on a par with rivals like Yamaha, Honda and Ducati.

“The engine we had in Qatar and Jerez makes passing really difficult. Once we are up towards the front it’s not so much of a problem but when you’ve got to make passes quick just to get to the front as quickly as possible its difficult.

“Our bike is a little bit of a hindrance at the moment. Without the acceleration out of corners we can’t get close enough on the straights to make a move at the next corner, though top speed isn’t a big problem.

“Our bike is really strong on the brakes and that’s one of the real strengths of the Suzuki. I do brake late, quite a few metres later than what Chris does.

“I’m one of the latest on the brakes in the field but you need a bike that’s capable of stopping in that short amount of time and that’s one of Suzuki’s real strong points from the ’06 bike to the 800.

“So with more grunt out of the corners to get us closer to lining up for a pass, our bike is capable of making the passes on the brakes “said Hopkins, who crashed out of the last race in Jerez while holding fourth place.

Hopkins is confident going into this weekend’s Istanbul clash and said: “I can’t wait just to get to a different track. It seems like all I’ve done in the last few months is ride at Sepang, Qatar or Jerez.

“As far as Istanbul goes, I know myself and Suzuki will definitely be ready for that. Last year we ran at the front but we ran into some tyre difficulties.

“Bridgestone has made every step I think possible to ensure we have a good race there. If Bridgestone comes through and the tyres are good there is no reason why we can’t get on the podium.

And the Rizla Suzuki rider added: “I’m sure Bridgestone will sort out the problems and we’ll be strong. It will be completely down to the tyres because as far as the bike and I go, I’ll be ready. We know the bike works good at Istanbul too after Chris got pole position there last year.”


Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt