Kawasaki's John Hopkins and Anthony West will start Sunday's Czech Republic Grand Prix from third and sixth respectively after exploiting treacherous weather conditions in Saturday's qualifying session.

Hopkins decided to use a softer compound Bridgestone wet tyre before conditions worsened around the 5.403km Brno track and set his quickest time on lap six of ten, securing his first front row start for Kawasaki in the process.

"I am very happy with that. We played it exactly right and took a gamble at the beginning of the session, which meant we could put in a decent lap time before it began to rain harder," said Hopkins, who has missed the last three races due to leg injuries sustained at Assen.

"I made a little mistake on my fastest lap, but I didn't want to push my knee too hard; today is only a small percentage of the weekend, so we took it easy in the latter part of the session."

The 25-year-old is now confident ahead of Sunday's race, regardless of the weather, with engine and chassis modifications recently made to Kawasaki's MotoGP machine marking a 'huge improvement'.

"I am pleased for myself, but also for Kawasaki, as huge improvements have been made on the bike since I last rode it at Assen," said John. "The Bridgestone tyres are working really well too at this circuit and I feel confident for tomorrow whatever the conditions."

Hopkins finished second at Brno last season, when he was a Rizla Suzuki rider, but is keeping expectations realistic for the 2008 race.

"Our aim is for a top five finish as I want to be realistic about what we can achieve, but we've definitely put ourselves in a great position for the race," declared Hopkins, whose best finish so far this year is fifth at Estoril.

Meanwhile, West finished the day with a huge boost to his confidence, after a final lap surge around the rain-soaked track put him in sixth place. The 27-year-old continuously slashed his lap time throughout the hour-long qualifying session, despite conditions deteriorating with heavy rainfall.

"I really didn't expect to improve my time on our last lap, so the final result has been a real confidence boost," said the Australian, who was 17th and last place in dry Friday practice. "The conditions worsened throughout the session and there was a lot of standing water around the circuit, so the bike was aquaplaning in a lot of places.

"I was struggling to see and I got held up on my final lap on a soft tyre, but we still managed to move up a further three places. We've made a lot of improvements to the set-up of the machine, and although I'm not really sure how this will fair in the dry, starting from sixth means we're in a strong position for the race."

"Based on their performance today, and with the improvements Kawasaki have made to the Ninja ZX-RR since Laguna, I am confident of strong performances from both of our riders in tomorrow's race," stated competition manager Michael Bartholemy.


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