MotoGP - round 4 qual 1

A weekend of close racing beckons at the Grand Prix of China as the first day of practice finished with the top fourteen MotoGP riders separated by less than a second at Shanghai International circuit today. John Hopkins stormed his Suzuki GSV-R to the top of the timesheets during this morning’s first practice session, as the Anglo-American ace was consistently in first place - only being edged into second in the closing moments by Championship leader Casey Stoner.

Fiat Yamaha team-mates Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards were right in the mix and ended the day sixth and seventh fastest respectively in the combined standings, with Edwards just 0.2 seconds off the day's fastest time.

With rain forecast for the afternoon this morning's Free Practice looked like being a crucial one and Rossi got things off to a strong start by finishing third fastest. Despite overcast skies and humid conditions however the rain stayed away and this afternoon's practice remained dry throughout, giving the riders further time to concentrate on set-up and tyre work with Michelin, conscious that bad weather could still arrive tomorrow to play havoc during Qualifying. Both riders were pleased with how quickly they were able to adapt their YZR-M1's to the demands of the stop-and-go circuit and will aim to make further improvements tomorrow, aware that every tiny advantage here could spell the key to success over their rivals.

Olivier Jacque (Kawasaki) underwent an operation at Shanghai's Huashan hospital this afternoon to repair the damage to his right forearm, sustained in a crash during the second free practice session.During the course of the operation doctors from the Clinica Mobile made the decision to close fully the wound, after ascertaining that no skin grafts were necessary.

As a result, Jacque's chances of racing at Le Mans have improved significantly, but the 33-year-old Frenchman faces an uncertain two weeks as he waits to see if the injury will recover sufficiently to allow him to take his place on the starting grid at his home race. Jacque will return to Barcelona tomorrow afternoon, where he will consult with his own doctors in a bid to accelerate the rehabilitation of his injury. The Kawasaki Racing Team will monitor closely Jacque's physical condition in the run up to the French Grand Prix at Le Mans, before making a decision about his fitness to race.

John Hopkins : “First of all I want to say hats off to Bridgestone! We have been using really good tyres straight away; they have really done their research from last year and stepped right up to the plate! The Suzuki is also doing really good things. I knew it was going to be a track that would suit the 800, as Shanghai has some good flowing corners and we spend a lot of the time on the edge of the tyres and have to do quite a bit of late braking. At the moment I am just going from kerb to kerb and the mix of the bike and tyres makes it feel like I’m on rails! We have made some improvements over the day and we still have a couple of little bits to sort out tomorrow. Competition is really close again and we need to find every tenth of a second we can and keep our heads down. Regardless of what the weather brings tomorrow we’ll be up for it and come out swinging!”

Valentino Rossi : "I'm not so happy with sixth position but the difference from the top is very small, only 0.18 seconds, and so the actual time is not so bad. All the riders are very close and already you can see that it's going to be a hard battle. For this reason we have to find every millimetre of difference in every corner of the track in order to have an advantage and it's also going to be important to start from the front. We're working hard to get the bike in the best possible shape but I can already ride my M1 quite well. We are missing a little bit of top speed on the straight but we're obviously making it up in other areas of the track where our bike is strong, because our overall times are similar to our rivals. Of course we've also been working closely with Michelin on the tyres and tomorrow we have a few more things to try; a couple of possibilities remain for us and from them we will decide our final race tyre. We were lucky with the weather today because we were waiting for rain but now it looks like it will come tomorrow or on Sunday instead. It's a pity; of course it's always better to race in the dry but we have had success here before under the rain and I think our bike is fast in the wet this year so lets wait and see."

Colin Edwards : "I've got a small engine modification to try here but actually I only managed a few laps with it at the end of the second session today. Tomorrow we'll use it a bit more and see how we get on with that. Anyway my time wasn't too bad today; it's ridiculously close amongst the top group so it looks like we could see some pretty exciting racing this weekend! I feel pretty good overall - we made a small modification to the geometry this afternoon and that's improved things a bit and we've got a couple more ideas just to finally tweak the setting a little more tomorrow. As for the tyres, we've found something good but we've got a couple more things to check before we make our final decision about the race tyre. However what we can do tomorrow might well depend on the weather!"

Circuit Length - 5451
Temp - 24 and hazy

2007 MotoGP China - Shanghai 04/05/2007
Free Practice
1. John Hopkins Suzuki USA 2'1.204
2. Marco Melandri Honda ITA 2'1.303
3. Daniel Pedrosa Honda ESP 2'1.333
4. Nicky Hayden Honda USA 2'1.346
5. Loris Capirossi Ducati ITA 2'1.365
6. Valentino Rossi Yamaha ITA 2'1.390
7. Colin Edwards Yamaha USA 2'1.409
8. Casey Stoner Ducati AUS 2'1.460
9. Alex Hofmann Ducati GER 2'1.771
10. Carlos Checa Honda ESP 2'1.881
11. Randy De Puniet Kawasaki FRA 2'1.896
12. Chris Vermeulen Suzuki AUS 2'1.991
13. Alex Barros Ducati BRA 2'2.051
14. Toni Elias Honda ESP 2'2.114
15. Makoto Tamada Yamaha JPN 2'2.242
17. Sylvain Guintoli Yamaha FRA 2'2.768

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