After a strong start Hopkins slotted into second behind the dominant Ducati rider, but Vermeulen was soon on a charge and - after overtaking both Valentino Rossi and Hopkins within five laps - closed to within a second of Stoner.

Sadly for those eager to see a battle, Stoner remained just out of Vermeulen's reach, before the MotoGP World Championship leader eased away to a five-second victory during the second half of the event, with Hopkins 16 seconds down in third. Meanwhile, a massive 23-second void separated Stoner from fourth placed Marco Melandri - not helped by Rossi's lap five retirement.

"I am very happy to be on the podium," said Vermeulen, also second to Stoner at Laguna Seca. "I got a good start from the third row, which was nice because I was dreading starting back there as it is so difficult to pass around here. I got up to fourth early on, but I still had to pass John and Valentino - two of the hardest guys in the paddock to get around. After I got through them I tried to catch Casey and thought I was doing so, but I think I used up a bit too much of my rear tyre trying to catch him and at the end he pulled away a bit.

"I said earlier this year that there would be two Rizla Suzukis on there before the end of the year, and I am very pleased to have been proved right. Obviously I'm happy to be in front of John, but congratulations to him and the whole team on this great result," added Vermeulen.

Vermeulen - who will stay at Suzuki next season - and Hopkins - heading for Kawasaki in 2008 - are now separated by just four points in a battle for fourth in the championship.

"I had an incident when I pushed a bit too hard coming in to a fast right and had a big front-end slide. That cost me some time as it spooked me up a bit and because of that my lap-times dropped off," revealed Hopper. "I could hear Chris behind me, he came up the inside and passed me - I knew he had a strong pace and I tried to hang on to him. I hung on for as long as possible until I had a problem with a knee-slider that came loose and I had to take it off and put it back on! That is neither here nor there though, Chris and Casey rode at a hell of a pace and I didn't really have anything for them."

"Today represents another landmark in Suzuki's return to competitiveness in MotoGP," said a proud Paul Denning, team manager. "It's the first time since 2001 that two Suzukis have been on the podium and the first time ever since the introduction of the four-stroke regulations. Rizla Suzuki MotoGP is now only two points behind Fiat Yamaha in the Team Championship, and with the performances shown recently by both of the riders we could possibly take second place over the coming races. It also gives us great confidence as we look to build on these results into 2008. I want to say well done to everybody involved, great job guys."

Suzuki will join a number of teams in testing at Misano on Monday.