John Hopkins continues his quest for Team Suzuki's first top five finish of the season when the MotoGP world championship reaches Malaysia this weekend, for round 14 of 16.

Hopkins and temporary team-mate Yukio Kagayama finished 8th and 11th at the brand-new Qatar circuit last Saturday, but Hopkins in particular expects better at Sepang, a favourite circuit, while Kagayama can rely on his growing experience of the GSV-R and Bridgestone tyres to raise his own level.

Despite 'incidents' beyond his control, Hopkins has been on an upward curve ever since the British Grand Prix in late-July and is eager to better his and the GSV-R's sixth place finish at Estoril in the final three races of the 2004 season.

"I'm looking forward to this race. We've tested at Sepang with Bridgestone, so we know they work pretty well there," said Hopper. "The track has good grip, so we can make up anything we lose in straight-line speed in the corners.

"Out of all the GP tracks, it's probably the track I know the best, even though I didn't race there last year (due to a suspension for causing a first turn accident at Motegi). I like tracks where there is very hard braking - that suits me fine. As I've said before, if I'm not in the top five there, I'll be disappointed."

Kagayama, replacing Kenny Roberts who - like Hopkins - was injured in a first turn pile-up at the Japanese Grand Prix, will be making his second 2004 MotoGP appearance and can at least count on prior Sepang experience, having finished 11th as a wild-card in 1999.

"I enjoyed my first race on the new GSV-R and the new tyres at Qatar and the team did a really good job getting the bike set up for my style," said Yuki. "It still wasn't perfect for me but we have a good place to start for this coming race. I also have experience at the track. I want to have fun, but the important thing is to try to help with machine development. If I can make the bike better for Kenny when he comes back, then I will be satisfied."

"Malaysia can be a difficult race, because of the possibility of extreme heat - but after our experiences at Qatar, we can face that problem with confidence," said team manager Garry Taylor. "Although seven out of the 22 factory machines suffered some sort of mechanical failure in the desert, the Suzukis didn't skip a beat."

 

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