Team Suzuki MotoGP racer John Hopkins recorded his best ever MotoGP finish in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi, the Anglo-American claiming fifth position and with it his first goal on the way to a MotoGP victory.

Hopkins had qualified in a career best equalling second but, having been involved in first turn chaos for the previous two years, had his fingers firmly crossed approaching turn one.

Hopper got through safely in fourth, then dropped down the order to eighth before climbing back up as Valentino Rossi, Marco Melandri and Sete Gibernau crashed out in the incident packed race. The #21 then successfully fended off countryman Colin Edwards to take fifth at the flag.

"Finally I got the top five finish I've been looking for in my whole GP career!" beamed John. "I am perfectly confident in my riding talent, I have always believed that the results would come when the machinery gets better and that's exactly what's happened.

"Suzuki has brought some improvements here and the Bridgestone tyres were just unbelievable this weekend, everything about them was really good. I had a couple of front-end slides in the race but that was inevitable with the heat. The lap-times weren't as good as what we had been doing but as I said with the heat that is only natural.

"I got to the first corner and just kept thinking don't anybody hit me, don't anybody hit me and they didn't!" he added. "So I breathed a huge sigh of relief and just kept my cool and my consistency and brought it home in the top five. That was really important for me because first it's the top five - then a podium - then a win!"

"I'm really pleased that John has got the top five position that he has been working so hard for. He's ridden consistently on the limit all weekend and richly deserves the result - and the bonus money!" said team manager Paul Denning. "My feeling before the race was that a top ten result would be - despite the qualifying positions - a sensible and achievable target. We got better than that!"

Meanwhile, team-mate Kenny Roberts Jr finished his 100th Grand Prix start for Suzuki in eighth place after a lack of grip left him 'lost'.

"That was basically the worst result besides falling down that I could have strung together," said the American. "I think either the temperature change got us or something, but I couldn't be aggressive from the start and was only using half my braking force.

"I then got frustrated and was overshooting the corners and by the time I had got to the next corner I didn't know where the hell to brake. This complicated everything and I then felt as if something was wrong, so that and sliding the front all added up to me just riding around completely lost."

Sunday's race was watched by a large delegation of Suzuki Motor Corporation staff and management - whom Denning believes will soon provide the necessary technical improvements.

"I'd like to thank all Suzuki senior management, in particular Mr Iguchi and Mr Ono for attending this weekend. They can see the effort that the riders and the team are making and we know where we have to be. Those guys are going to help us get there," he said.



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