John Hopkins was the sole Suzuki finisher in Sunday's Africa's Grand Prix, the young Anglo-American surviving an eventful race which saw him battle from the first turn to the last.

"I got a decent start, but going into turn one Ruben Xaus and I got into a bit of an elbow match and I backed out of it," said Hopper. "I got a little bit hot headed there for a few laps and was riding too hard. I'd pass someone then run wide in the turn and give back the position. I finally settled into a rhythm, but my mistakes early in the race cost me."

Hopkins ran as far back as 15th on the 4.2 kilometre Phakisa Freeway before settling into 13th mid-race.

"I ran in a group with (Carlos) Checa and (Shinya) Nakano for most of the race," he added. "I went with a soft tyre and every time early in the race when I was making mistakes I would have to light the rear up to get out of the turns. I got out in the dusty part of the track and picked up dirt on the tyre and that made it more abrasive and unfortunately I blistered a tyre. It was entirely my fault.

"I was getting a bit of a vibration in the rear when it was sliding and it was kind of freaking me out going into the fast right-handers and having it step out," he revealed. "So towards the end, I was just trying to survive. We were in the points and I was pushing but there was nothing else I could do. I wanted to keep my place and stay ahead of Bayliss and go to the next one with high hopes."

At the flag Hopkins held on to edge out Ducati rider Bayliss by just half a second, while team-mate Kenny Roberts saw his race end early with electrical problems.

"I got a decent start, got into turn one eighth or so and got up to seventh at the end of the first lap. Things were looking quite okay," said Kenny. "I was being gentle with the rear because I didn't want to hurt the tyre too much, so I was taking it pretty easy. Also, at the beginning, Melandri's bike had smoke coming off it so I backed off a bit in case his motor blew, though I think it was a tyre rubbing on something.

"When Loris (Capirossi) came past me I think he felt the same - he got up behind Melandri then noticed the smoke and backed away too. Then Barros got me down the back straight. I was following those guys, feeling smooth and comfortable and everything felt okay when it stopped," he added. "But it was basically a good weekend overall.

"The improvements over the winter have shown Suzuki can get to a better position. We have some exciting stuff coming for Jerez. I think this was the worst-prepared we're going to be all year and everything from here just looks up," Kenny concluded.

 

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