It seemed John Hopkins’s return to MotoGP was well underway, as reports earlier this year said the Anglo-American would be testing at MotoGP’s last pre-season test being held at Qatar this week; however Hopper’s stint on the GSV-R seems to have been relegated to merely doing some laps on the Suzuki MotoGP bike as part of a PR video campaign for the Rizla squad.
Hopper’s test originally was supposed to assess the former-MotoGP rider’s ability to apex a GP machine, and give Paul Denning’s squad an option should Alvaro Bautista become injured in the 2011 season. After Saturday’s filming though, Hopper’s return seems less likely, but the now British Superbike rider remains hopeful.
MotoGP was under the lights of the Losail International Circuit out here in Qatar on Sunday night. With the weather staying warm, but the humidity coming on in the latter stages of the night, it was the Hondas once again who were setting the pace for MotoGP’s pre-season testing sessions. With four Hondas within half a second of each other, it seemed only the Yamahas were capable of getting in-between the RC212Vs of Pedrosa, Stoner, Aoyama, and Dovizioso (Simoncelli would finish farther down the time sheet as 11th fastest).
Leading the tuning fork charge was Ben Spies, who bested his current teammate Jorge Lorenzo by just over a tenth of second. Spies also would lead former teammate Colin Edwards by just under two tenths of a second, as the three Yamahas rounded out what would be the second row if this was race qualifying. Meanwhile the Ducatis all landed in the slower half of the field, clearly struggling with the desert track.
We’re live here in Doha for the next 10 days, covering the last pre-season MotoGP test and the Qatar GP. The skies seem perpetually hazy, with the sun poking through every now and then. That’s just fine by us, as it’s keeping daytime temperatures in the low 80F’s, with nights being a pleasant 60-70F. As usual we’ll have our Twitter feed going on the site, keeping you up-to-date with the latest happenings in the MotoGP paddock.
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Photo Feed from MotoGP’s Warm-up at the Qatar GP:
It started out as a rumor, with Crash.net reporting that John Hopkins could see himself once again taking to the Suzuki GSV-R in a one-off wild card race during the 2011 season. That notion in the past few days has expanded to to include Hopper riding at the IRTA test in Qatar next month, presumably to see if he would be capable of replacing Alvaro Bautista, should the Spanish rider become injured during the 2011 season.
For those keeping track, that’s Hopkins going from the AMA, to the BSB Championship, and now MotoGP (albeit as an alternate) in a matter of months; and as MCN reports, it’s due largely to the fact that Paul Denning owns not only the Crescent Suzuki Team, but is also the Team Manager for the Rizla Suzuki MotoGP effort.
MotoGP testing has concluded at the Losail International Circuit just outside of Doha, Qatar, and sees Casey Stoner making a late push to take the top spot at what has become one of his top tracks in the past years. There was some doubt with Stoner though, as Rossi lead almost all of Thursday’s sessions, and was biting on Stoner’s heels today. Surprise appearances from the test come in the form of Ben Spies, Andrea Dovizioso, and Randy de Puniet. Spies finished Thursday third quickest, and was the fourth quickest rider overall. Dovi took the honors as the fastest Honda, but was challenged by de Puniet on Thursday for that spot. Thursday the French rider was 5th quickest, and managed to keep his shirt on despite the hot weather in Doha.
Friday saw Nicky Hayden make progress with the Ducati Desmosedici, while Colin Edwards slipped down the overall grid Friday, despite his strong numbers Thursday and consistent runs during both test days. Lorenzo and Pedrosa were both present for the track test, but not in spirit. Both riders were suffering from injuries, and it showed in their performance under the hot desert lights. Check past the jump for a full timing sheet.
After injuring his hand earlier this year, Jorge Lorenzo has been sitting out MotoGP’s testing days, trying to recover in time for the upcoming season. Now leaving a post on his Facebook page, Lorenzo confirms that he will be at the Qatar test later next month. Surely with this message, all eyes will be trained on the Middle-Eastern track, looking for the first signs that Lorenzo will be able to dethrone the reigning World Champion Rossi.
Continuing to develop their MotoGP entry, FB Corse has announced their intent to participate in the Qatar testing session, which is schedule to start on March 17th. In confirming their attendance in Qatar, FB Corses Principal Andrea Ferrari also confirmed that the team would not be attending MotoGP’s testing session at Sepang, Malaysia in February. More on this and sneak photos of the FB Corse MotoGP race bike after the jump.