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post #1 of 1 (permalink) Old 06-23-2006, 11:53 AM Thread Starter
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Hopkins Gets His First Pole

Rizla Suzuki’s John Hopkins turned the established order upside down by taking his first ever pole position for Saturday’s Dutch TT at Assen in the same qualifying session that ended with the injured world champion Valentino Rossi on the very bottom.

“I mean it feels great,” Hopkins said after his record lap of 1:36.411 on the shortened Circuit van Drenth. “We’re just getting the maximum out of myself, the Suzuki, and the Bridgestone tires. We’ve been working really hard on race tires this weekend. And Colin (Edwards) set a really strong pace and we’d like to get a little bit more time out of the race tires. But things are going well.”

Hopkins was near the top for most of the one hour session at the famed circuit in the north of Holland. But it was at the very end when he was at his best. Sitting in sixth place, Hopkins bettered the lap record on the first two split before falling behind in the third. The final run to the finish line would be where Hopkins excelled, with a new lap record on the board with about 15 seconds on the clock.

“What can I say? Second, second, second all the time on the grid,” Hopkins said. “Now it’s finally the pole position. So extremely pleased with that. And it’s just a huge weight off the shoulders finally.”

It was clear from the start that Rossi was still suffering from Friday’s crash. The most grievous of the injuries appeared to be to his right wrist, which suffered a hairline fracture in the spill. The world champion completed only four laps of Friday morning’s session before pulling out. For the afternoon qualifying session, he spent most of the time near the bottom before walking out of the back of the garage with about 11 minutes to run. He qualified last on the 18-rider grid.

Rossi’s teammate Colin Edwards fared much better. On top at the 19th minute, he was there until about the 11th minute when Kawasaki’s Shinya Nakano went slightly faster. The Japanese rider held the spot until Hopkins did his flyer at the very end.

“From the first day I had quite good feeling and step by step I’ve been going better,” Nakano, another of the Bridgestone runners, said after qualifying second, only .013 behind Hopkins. “Of course, I really wanted to get pole position, sure. But second is not bad, you know. It will make me stronger for the race. Especially the bike balance we don’t touch so much, so I think suits this new track our bike.”

Edwards came third at a gap of .311 seconds to Nakano. The first of the Michelin riders, he was happy to be back on the front row, but more pleased with his race pace.

“Obviously I’d like to be on pole position and I thought that we had a really good shot,” he said. “Went out there and, you know, ran a couple of tires and found a race tire. And really happy with my race pace. Then we started throwing some qualifiers on.

“I don’t know if I had a 36.4 in my bag. I mean the 36.7 (1:36.755) that I did, I was pretty happy with and thought, OK, you know, we’ll just see what happens. And these guys did a 36.4. That was quite impressive. It would have been 'Take the brain out and set on the lamp post and try to do it.' Anyways, right there at the end, (Casey) Stoner and (Dani) Pedrosa were just sitting in the middle of the track on my last lap. So we’ll never know anyways.”

Repsol Honda’s Nicky Hayden missed out on the front row by .003 secs. and finished just in front of his teammate, Pedrosa. Rizla Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen was the final rider on the second row.

Fortuna Honda’s Marco Melandri struggled to qualify seventh. One of only two-time race winners this year-Rossi is the other-Melandri was still beat up from last week’s first turn fiasco in Catalunya.

Next to him came Tech 3 Yamaha’s Carlos Checa, his eighth the best yet qualifying effort for the Dunlop team.

German Alex Hofmann qualified ninth after upgrading his d’Antin Ducati to the vacant factory Marlboro Ducati of the injured Sete Gibernau. Gibernau, who started the Catalunya domino effect, is expected to miss three to five weeks.

One race removed from his first podium in years, Kenny Roberts Jr. qualified tenth, sharing the fourth row with Kawasaki’s Randy de Puniet and LCR Honda’s Casey Stoner.

MotoGP Qualifying:

1. John Hopkins (Suzuki) 1:36.411

2. Shinya Nakano (Kawasaki) 1:36.424

3. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:36.755

4. Nicky Hayden (Honda) 1:36.758

5. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:36.993

6. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) 1:37.077

7. Marco Melandri (Honda) 1:37.332

8. Carlos Checa (Yamaha) 1:37.378

9. Alex Hofmann (Ducati) 1:37.399

10. Kenny Roberts (KR211V) 1:37.528

11. Randy de Puniet (Kawasaki) 1:37.556

12. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:37.660

13. Makoto Tamada (Honda) 1:37.676

14. James Ellison (Yamaha) 1:38.055

15. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) 1:38.060

16. Jose Luis Cardoso (Ducati) 1:39.406

17. Ivan Silva (Ducati) 1:39.496

18. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1:40.298

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