Crescent FIXI Suzuki's World Superbike riders John Hopkins and Leon Camier spent the opening day of practice and qualifying at Monza in Italy learning the circuit and also testing new bike settings.
Monza first-timer Hopkins - now fully-fit and recovered from his pre-season injuries - and team mate Camier, made sure of a provisional Superpole place tomorrow afternoon after finishing well within the top 16 today and will both work on testing new settings on their Yoshimura- powered GSX-Rs tomorrow morning, confident of improvement.
Today's quickest time was set by Michel Fabrizio on a BMW as he led home a BMW 1-2-3 at the fastest circuit on the calendar, which also saw the Italian equal the highest speed ever recorded in World Superbikes as he clocked 334.8kmh down the main straight.
Hopkins and Camier have one more qualifying session tomorrow morning, followed by the important Superpole in the afternoon where Crescent FIXI Suzuki will be going all out to secure the best grid positions for Sunday's two races.
John Hopkins - 12th, 1:43.576:
"I've never been to Monza before, so I spent part of the day learning the track. In truth, it's not a hard track to learn, so once I got it dialled in, I began working on my brake markers. I feel happy because I managed to put in some decent lap times and now I can play with the set up of the bike and try and improve it. We got the Crescent Fixi Suzuki handling well by the end of the afternoon session, but I'm sure there's more to come if the weather stays dry. Physically I feel great and I'm looking forward to more time on the bike and some good races on Sunday."
Leon Camier - 13th, 1:43.837:
"This morning we tried a lot of different things and made a few experiments. Some of the stuff we tried worked and some didn't, but we understood more about what happens with the changes and we got some ideas about which directions to take. We went towards a more conventional gearing set-up this afternoon and continued our work improving the electronics. The speed trap shows that our bike is down on power compared to our rivals, but I could put in some pretty good times by slipstreaming. Tomorrow, we'll see if we can get a bit more power and top speed - both very useful at a track like this."
Jack Valentine - Team Manager:
"I'm happy because we accomplished our first mission, and that was to have both John and Leon in the top 16 and provisional Superpole. If the weather forecast does what it says and it rains in tomorrow's qualifying, the times set today will be OK for Superpole. We knew that this weekend would be very hard for us because this track is all about power and speed. Considering that it's John's first time here, I think he's done a good job. I think he would've been higher up the standings today if he hadn't overshot a turn. Hopefully, it will be dry tomorrow and we can continue to improve the bike, but if it rains, then our next step will be to get as high up the grid as we can."
Monza WSB Qualifying 1:
1. Michel Fabrizio (BMW) 1'42.327: 2. Marco Melandri (BMW) 1'42.380: 3. Leon Haslam (BMW) 1'42.523: 4. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) 1'42.625: 5. Ayrton Badovini (BMW) 1'42.690: 12. John Hopkins (Crescent FIXI Suzuki) 1'43.576. 13. Leon Camier (Crescent FIXI Suzuki) 1'43.837.