After several impressive practice performances in recent events, John Hopkins finally 'cashed in' on his growing potential in Sunday's Portuguese Grand Prix - an event which saw the 21-year-old overcome tyre problems to take a career best sixth at the chequered flag.

"It's my best GP result so I am happy for that," said Hopkins, who also claimed Suzuki's best result of the season so far. "We had a small problem that prevented me from doing better.

"I felt chatter all race that we didn't have any other time this weekend. After the race it was discovered that the rear tyre had slipped on the rim and caused vibration," he revealed. "It was a distraction, but I wasn't going to let it hold me back. I just ignored it as best I could and everything came out OK."

Hopper had qualified his GSV-R a promising sixth, as the only non-Honda or Yamaha rider in the top eight, then got a good jump off the line when the red lights went out... but was out-motored before the pack reached turn one and would struggle with straight line speed for the rest of the race.

"At a lot of tracks I'm able to overcome the lack of horsepower, but it was tough this weekend," explained the Anglo-American. "We had the second slowest motorcycle in the field here so that's something Suzuki needs to address. The handling of the bike is awesome. If Suzuki can give us a little more power we'll be right where we need to be."

Hopkins and fellow American Colin Edwards tangled early on ("We had a bit of a mix up. That allowed the leaders to gap us") before the #21 regrouped and began to pressure fifth placed Yamaha rider Carlos Checa - a battle that would last until the finish.

"I actually made a pass on (Checa) at the end of the back straight, but I wasn't able to hold my line and he quickly got back by me," said Hopkins.

In the end Hopper followed Checa to the flag, 18.6secs behind winner Valentino Rossi.

"I've got the package to get on the podium," John declared. "I'm pleased with the direction we're going but I won't look at this year as a success until I meet a few more of my goals."

"John rode a great race for a career-best result,"praised team manager Garry Taylor. "He showed that he is not only very fast but also a real fighter. He has been showing strong potential in recent races and he finally managed to make one stick. Everyone in the team is pleased for him and proud of him."

Meanwhile, Suzuki team-mate Kenny Roberts finished 14th after a mystery engine problem dropped the 2000 world champion back from a strong start.

"Kenny had a tough weekend and though it looked like it would come together for the race, he was never happy with the engine and during the race it went from bad to worse," commented Taylor.



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