Rizla Suzuki MotoGP racer John Hopkins
and Scuderia Toro Rosso Formula One driver Tonio Liuzzi will swap 'day jobs' next week - when Hopkins will drive Luizzi's F1 car, while the American steps onto Hopper's GSV-R.
The once-in-a-lifetime 'seat swap' will take place on Tuesday 31st October, at Valencia in Spain, just two days after this weekend's MotoGP season finale at the same circuit. The crossover event had originally been planned for August 11, 2005, but was cancelled after Hopkins broke his foot in last year's German Grand Prix.
But, barring such misfortune in this weekend's grand prix, Hopkins will now get the opportunity to sit behind the wheel of the V10 powered Toro Rosso F1 car, sporting a Rizla-blue fire suit and an Arai car helmet painted in his Red Bull colours.
"I'm really excited about this," said the Anglo-American, "it's the first time I've been given the chance to drive a F1 car properly and the team are telling me to give it a bit of throttle - which makes me excited but a bit nervous too! I think it will be a really interesting day, with Liuzzi on the bike and me in the car, and our respective crews having to work with different guys using their machines. It's going to be an experience of a lifetime and I'm really grateful to Red Bull and Rizla Suzuki for making it happen. I'm really pumped up for it and can't wait for it to happen!"
Liuzzi, whose F1 season concluded at Brazil on Sunday, is having a special set of leathers made for the event, as well as switching to a motorcycle specification crash helmet. Like most Italians, Tonio is mad about bikes, using one to ride round the F1 race tracks prior to race weekends, as well as riding Superbikes back in his native Italy, where he regularly heads out on the road on a Suzuki GSX-R750. He has also been know to indulge in the occasional track day, but don't tell his team-boss as it is probably strictly forbidden in his contract...
"I'm looking forward to this very much," said Liuzzi. "Especially as I was supposed to do it earlier, but John had had an accident and it was not possible. I had some preparation riding a 750 Suzuki round Silverstone and riding in Valencia should be very interesting as I will be able to compare my times to what the 'real' racers did on the Sunday before."
The nearest Liuzzi has got to experiencing a MotoGP machine is a ride on the Ducati Marlboro two-seater, behind Randy Mamola, at the 2005 Italian Grand Prix - while Hopper drove an aging F1 machine, behind a pace car, at an Alpinestars organised event at Magny Cours, France in 2003.
Due to safety (and insurance premiums), Hopkins and Liuzzi will not be allowed on track at the same time.