Team Suzuki take their GSV-R MotoGP prototype back to its country of creation this weekend, when riders Kenny Roberts and John Hopkins compete in the Japanese Grand Prix, at Motegi.

Last time out at Estoril, the Suzukis - led by Hopkins - had again qualified in the top ten and, although Roberts dropped back with a mechanical ailment in the race, 'Hopper' went on to claim a personal career-best sixth place - only 0.6secs from factory Yamaha rider Carlos Checa.

Now the team is bringing the bikes home, to race under the direct supervision of senior Suzuki factory racing and management personnel.

"I like Motegi - it's kind of all action, hard braking, and I've always had fun there. Not so much last year, with my first turn crash and some bad consequences, but that's past now," said Hopkins, referring to his controversial one race suspension imposed as result of the first turn pile-up.

"This season has really been coming together over the last races. We have the bike working real good, and the Bridgestone tyres keep getting better. I just missed out on the top five at Estoril. That's my aim for this race too," declared the on-form 21-year-old.

Roberts, world champion in 2000, has less exact targets - and is aiming simply to get the maximum from his machine.

"We've been working this season to get the bike the best possible track by track, and - problems apart - we've made the most of what we have," said the American. "Especially we've improved corner speed, though the nature of Motegi - U-bends and short straights - means that's not so valuable there.

"But I've had good results at the track before with Suzuki - like beating Mick Doohan in the rain in 1999, my second GP win, and beating Rossi the next year. We'll work to get the bike to its best, and see what the conditions bring," he added.

"It's a favourite track for both riders, and it's also a track where we expect the Bridgestone tyres to perform very well," offered team manager Garry Taylor.

"Ever since Kenny's pole position at Rio five races ago, our qualifying and race results have been getting consistently better," he continued. "John's motivation is sky high at the moment, as he showed with a really impressive ride at Estoril, and a richly deserved career best finish. And I know that Kenny's determination will be renewed after his disappointment in Portugal.

"We're all looking forward to the race," concluded Taylor.



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