Suzuki's John Hopkins scored his second-best result of the 2003 Motorcycle Grand Prix season by finishing 11th at the British Grand Prix on Sunday. Hopkins raced in front of 72,000 British racing fans, many of who cheered for the American with his deep British roots.

Hopkins, who started 15th on the grid, darted his way into the top-10 early in the race on the factory GSV-R. He battled back and forth in the race and ran as high as 10th and as far back as 12th during the 30-lap race.

"I got out right away with a good launch," said Hopkins, who moved up four positions on the first lap. "I just barely made it through a little gap between Nakano and Ukawa right at the start. I almost got sandwiched. That might have been pretty ugly if I didn't make it. I had a decent run early and hung with a group that included Nicky (Hayden), Colin (Edwards) and Olivier Jacque for nearly half the race."

In the end Hopkins finished 11th, about 13 seconds behind the battle for ninth between Shinya Nakano and fellow American Colin Edwards.

"It felt good to run in the top 10. We sort of knew that would be possible, but we also knew that it would be important to make a good showing early before the tyres went off," he explained. "That happens with every bike, but more so with this one. After that I kept on and tried to stay consistent. I thought I might get a top ten until Nakano came past and I lost touch. After that I decided I'd better settle for what I had, and bring the bike home."

Temporary team-mate Yukio Kagayama recovered almost immediately from his first-corner problems, but by then he had lost a lot of positions. The Japanese factory rider, substituting for team regular Kenny Roberts, finished the first lap 14th, and was 12th at the finish.

"That was a very hard race," he sighed. "My start was so-so, quite okay - but in the first corner Ukawa fell off right in front of me, and I had to brake so hard I almost stopped. Many riders came past me. After that I tried to push hard, but I wasn't able to catch the others, and I was lonely for the whole race. By the end the engine feeling changed a little, so it was more difficult to open the throttle. I tried my best, and I am happy to finish in the points. That was only my second ride on this bike, and though I need more time to get used to it, I really enjoyed it."

"Once again, both our riders did their best, and there has been a small step forward with the bike, so we're at least beginning to help them out. Both got a great reception from the crowd, everyone could see they were trying really hard. Now we think of the next race, and trying to make another step forward," reflected team manger Garry Taylor.



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