Rizla Suzuki's first MotoGP event of the season with a two rider pairing got off to an encouraging start as both Alvaro Bautista and wild-card John Hopkins got amongst the top ten riders at Brno in free practice.
Though it is his second MotoGP outing of the season, after deputising for Bautista at Jerez, Hopkins nonetheless comes to Brno feeling better prepared and riding a confidence high having tasted success in the British and World Superbike Championship this year.
This was immediately evident in FP1 as Hopkins placed his GSV-R seventh quickest, while Bautista did his bit to be eighth fastest.
Though Hopkins slipped back to tenth in FP2, compared to Bautista who held station in eighth, it was still a strong opening for the American on his long-awaited return to the MotoGP paddock.
“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,” Hopkins, currently second in the BSB standings, said. “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!
“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 Álvaro 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.”