Hopkins on row three at 1st Russian WSB
FIXI Crescent Suzuki's John Hopkins will start the inaugural Russian World Superbike races from the third row tomorrow at the Moscow International Raceway for the 11th round of the eni FIM Superbike World Championship.
Hopkins qualified for this afternoon's Superpole following a brave and determined lap right at the end of the second timed-practice session. Rain had fallen over the 3'931m long circuit but, despite the damp conditions, Hopkins decided to throw caution to the winds and his daring gamble was rewarded by a superb eighth fastest time and a comfortable place in Superpole. He made his way to the second Superpole session, but tyre consistency problems with his qualifier meant that he was unable to get into Superpole 3 and had to settle for 11th on the grid.
The rain that arrived in the morning dented Leon Camier's confidence - following his huge crash yesterday that left him with severe bruising - and prevented him from pushing as hard as he wanted to. He thought his work in the early dry part of the final qualifying would see him through to the Superpole, but after the rain, other riders went quicker and Camier was unable to push his Yoshimura-powered Suzuki GSX-R that extra bit to secure his place. In the second free practice later in the day he recorded his fastest time of the weekend so far, so that looks positive for race-day and if he can get a good start he could soon be up amongst the action. Camier will start tomorrow's two races from the fifth row after qualifying in 18th place.
Reigning World Champion Carlos Checa on a Ducati won Superpole - his first of the season - so will start tomorrow's two 25-lap races from pole position. Tom Sykes on his Kawasaki and Aprilia's Eugene Laverty will join him on the front row after qualifying in second and third respectively. Tomorrow's first-ever World Superbike race to be held in Russia gets underway at 12.00hrs local time (09.00hrs BST), with the second event starting at 15.30hrs local time (12.30hrs BST).
"In Superpole 1, I struggled a bit with the qualifying tyre, but managed to do enough to get into the next session. Unfortunately the second qualifying tyre did not work at all in Superpole 2 and the bike was chattering right from the start of the pit-lane. I had to pit and put in a race tyre, but couldn't lap quickly enough on it to get into the top-eight for the third Superpole session. The chassis of our bike works really well and gives us a lot of feedback, but it seems that it is very sensitive to tyres - perhaps more so than other bikes. For sure, I would have liked to have qualified higher up the grid, but I'm confident with my race set-up and I think I can do well if I can get good starts."
"In the afternoon session we made some improvements to my FIXI Crescent Suzuki and I went faster than all weekend. My race pace on race rubber is not so bad, but starting from the fifth row of the grid is definitely going to be a disadvantage. I need the best starts of the season and a bit of luck in the opening laps."
Jack Valentine - Team Manager:
Moscow - eni FIM Superbike World Championship - Superpole: