MotoGP: Loris Capirossi impresses on Suzuki debut

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Veteran Italian Loris Capirossi was the most impressive of the several riders who changed machinery in the first winter test for the 2008 season in Valencia today.

Making his debut on Suzuki’s factory GSV-R, he needed only two flying laps to clock an impressive 1.33.8 lap, which was just 0.4sec slower than his best lap in his last race for Ducati.

The triple world champion ended up posting a best lap of 1.33.266 in his 34 laps, which was under his best Ducati race lap by 0.2sec and fourth quickest in the three hours of track time available this afternoon.

Loris Capirossi and his new Rizla Suzuki squad were ecstatic at his first ride, as he finished just 0.080s behind new team-mate Chris Vermeulen. Loris Capirossi completed 13 laps in the 1.33 bracket today.

“The first couple of hours that I have ridden the Suzuki have been very good. The feeling with the bike is excellent and I already have a good relationship with the team,” said Loris Capirossi, who was using the same bikes John Hopkins rode in last Sunday’s Valencia MotoGP, though team boss Paul Denning revealed tonight that he might get a “handful” of laps on the new 2008 GSV-R.

Chris Vermeulen did get his first ride on the 2008 GSV-R, which is still running this year’s motor Paul Denning revealed the 2008 V4 engine will not be ready to be rolled out until the first test of 2008 next January in Sepang.

Chris Vermeulen was third fastest behind Nicky Hayden and a dominant Casey Stoner, with the Aussie posting a best time of 1.33.186. That was 0.4sec faster than he’d managed on his way to sixth place in Sunday’s 30-lap race.

The Aussie said: “The new bike felt good for a first run out. There were a lot of positive points and some definitely to work on.”

Loris Capirossi was the highest place rider testing new machinery today, with next best Toni Elias in sixth. He made an inauspicious start to his Ducati debut, stalling his GP7 as he prepared to go out for first run.

Seventh fastest was a pleasantly surprised Randy de Puniet. The French rider rode the LCR Honda with exactly the same set-up used on Sunday by departing Spaniard Carlos Checa.

His best time was a 1.33.563, which was only 0.4sec slower than his best lap in Sunday’s race on board Kawasaki’s factory ZX-RR.

“To be just 0.4sec slower than my best race time is very encouraging,” beamed Randy de Puniet, who was also riding on Michelin tyres for the first time.

“The difference in the performance of the tyres is not as big as I expected. And the Honda seems to be much easier to ride from lower rpm,” he added, as he completed the most laps with 59 in just three hours.

His replacement at Kawasaki, John Hopkins, was ninth as the American clocked a best time of 1.34.277. John Hopkins said he was impressed with Kawasaki’s engine performance, particularly at the top end, but his best time was 1.2sec slower than his best lap in his last appearance for Suzuki, when he finished third.

Double world 250 champion Jorge Lorenzo was the best of the MotoGP newcomers. He was 10th fastest with a best time of 1.34.330 on his first serious test of Yamaha’s YZR-M1.

He was content and perhaps gave a taste of things to come at the end of the day when he pulled a huge wheelie the length of the start/finish straight.

“I wasn’t sure if I could wheelie very well on the 800 because of all the power. Now I know and it was a good feeling.

“I need to be going two seconds faster before I can start giving the engineers some proper feedback, but I’m happy. The bike is very powerful and fun to ride, but we have to get much faster.

“For the first day though it’s good enough. My first aim has just been to get comfortable on the bike and to try to understand as much as I can about it. I went very gently because the difference in power from my 250 bike is very big!

“I am definitely a long way from the limit but I think I made a good start. We need a lot of time and a lot of kilometres in order to learn about the bike, but I am looking forward to improving at each test,” said the Spaniard.

Alex de Angelis was 13th fastest on the Gresini Honda, with Andrea Dovizioso 14th.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt