Team Suzuki rider Kenny Roberts Jr. was in fighting form at Welkom today, the American running as high as second with less than ten minutes remaining, before placing fifth by the chequered flag.

That result put the former world champion ahead of four Hondas, three Yamahas and three Ducatis, and within 0.1secs of the now three rider wide front row.

"All in all, the tyres feel good, the bike feels good, and the settings from our Jerez and Barcelona tests have transferred over nicely," began Kenny. "The guys did a good job getting the most out of the settings today. There was a few times when we hit a wall and they came up with something that helped out tremendously each time. This team deserves good finishes... we have a good bunch of guys here trying as hard as they can."

Indeed, Roberts's biggest problems came from the dry highveld air, provoking sneezing fits and hayfever. "I almost sneezed a couple of times in my helmet," he grinned.

Team-mate John Hopkins was 14th, but more than satisfied after his attempt at a fast lap on soft qualifying tyres was thwarted by a sliding Loris Capirossi. His best time came on full race tyres and he is confident of making up time and places in tomorrow's sessions.

"Today went really well, though I was unable to get the lap time I wanted. One bike felt good and I was riding hard, but the lap time wasn't coming. Then that motor stopped running right and I switched to the other bike, which had a different rear suspension link that made a big difference in the right direction," explained Hopper. "We had some shifting problems that we fixed easily, but the little glitches meant I didn't get the longer runs on the track I wanted.

"At the end, I put on a qualifying tyre and got behind Loris Capirossi for a fast lap ... but I guess he'd already set his time and he was spinning up everywhere and he slowed me up. He was the wrong guy to follow at that time! But it meant my best time came on race tyres and we can definitely make up time on that. I'll give it a full go tomorrow," he added.

"That was a good first day back at school!" concluded team manager Garry Taylor.

 

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