John Hopkins has seemingly been unable to get out to Qatar in time to fill-in for the injured Álvaro Bautista, instead Rizla Suzuki will go without a rider for the Qatar GP. Despite that setback, Hopper will pick-up with the Suzuki squad at the Spanish GP, racing once again on the GSV-R at Jerez. Out of all the riders in the MotoGP paddock, Hopkins has had the most success with the Suzuki MotoGP bike, finishing fourth in the 2007 MotoGP Championship.
No sooner did news of Álvaro Bautista’s broken femur hit the MotoGP paddock did speculation begin as to whom would/could replace the unfortunately injured Spanish rider. The list of racers capable of piloting a MotoGP machine is short and distinguished, and the majority of speculation turned to whether John Hopkins would have another go at the Suzuki GSV-R in Qatar. The other option banded-about, although with much less fervor, were MotoGP-turned-Moto2 riders Ant West, Alex de Angelis, & Aleix Espargaró.
UPDATE: A&R just had another chat with Rizla Suzuki, racing this weekend depends on the ability to get a rider to Qatar in-time. No decision has been made, but the impression was that if Hopper can get out to Qatar, he’d be in the saddle for Qualifying on Saturday evening.
We’ve just gotten confirmation from the Rizla Suzuki team that Alvaro Bautista had broken his femur from his high-speed crash in FP3 at the Qatar GP. Currently undergoing tests at Hamad Medical Corporation in Doha, Bautista needs a pin for the broken bone, an operation the rider would like to undertake in his home country of Spain, but the team is still evaluating whether to undergo that surgery in Qatar.
Bautista’s highside crash occurred at considerable speed in Losail’s Turn 15, a fast left-hander. While the team will release more information later tonight, there are no plans to bring in a new rider for the Qatar GP race this weekend, and all eyes are now on whether Bautista return can return in time for the next MotoGP round, which is on April 3rd at Jerez.
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.
Finally we have all the factory MotoGP bikes officially unveiled in their race liveries (click for the Ducati, Honda, and Yamaha unveilings). Surprising everyone this year with a teal color scheme, Rizla Suzuki is still present in MotoGP, albeit only running one rider for the 2011 season. Taking to the helm of the 2011 Suzuki GSV-R is Alvaro Bautista, who has shown great promise on the otherwise lackluster race bike.
Despite its troubled past, Suzuki has been working hard on turning its toad into a prince, and could be the surprise entry in this year’s MotoGP Championship. We don’t expect the bike to win any races, but a couple surprise podiums do seem attainable for the squad. Photos and technical specifications after the jump.
The Honda boys were out in full-force today, as MotoGP testing continued at Sepang. With only Toni Elias outside of the Top 7, Honda’s race package for the 2011 season is looking very stout, despite the fact that chassis selections still haven’t been finalized. While landing at the top of the results list is about as useful as yelling “first” in the comments section, Casey Stoner just barely snatched the honor away from Dani Pedrosa in his final lap around the Malaysian circuit, leaving only .058 seconds between the teammates.
Like yesterday, the Yamaha Racing factory squad looked in good form as well, with Spies showing marked improvements despite crashing in one of the sessions. Jorge Lorenzo spent some time on two different bikes, confirming the direction his crew was going with developing the 2011 Yamaha YZR-M1 for the new season.
Things weren’t progressing as well in the Ducati camp though, as all the teams struggled with front-end issues. Notably absent from the day was Valentino Rossi, who has come down with cold/flu like symptoms. He retired to the hotel, in the hopes of being well enough to ride in tomorrow’s last day of testing. Carrying the Corse flag alone, Nicky Hayden had a tough day that ended with gearbox problems. Still, the ever-positive American was hopeful for better fortunes on Thursday as the team seems to have worked out some chatter issues.
Casey Stoner set the pace today at MotoGP’s second off-season test at Sepang. The Australian, and the rest of the four factory Honda riders, proved to be very impressive on the Malaysian track, as the 2011 Honda RC212V seems to be hitting its stride just before the season opener in Qatar in a few weeks.
The Honda riders don’t have things all sewn up though, as the Yamaha of Jorge Lorenzo was looking very fast, as were Americans Ben Spies and Colin Edwards. Earlier in the day, nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi even cracked into the Top 5 on the standings, and despite finishing the day just over a second behind Stoner, the Italian was upbeat about the team’s progress and his physical condition.
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.
A lot of people don’t realize that during the racing season MotoGP takes on the role of a small moving city. Hopping from venue to venue and setting up camp where they land, GP teams are perhaps the more modern take on the traveling circus business model, erecting hospitality structures, team offices, rider amenities, and of course the team garage, all in the name of the big show.
Stick around the race track after a Sunday race, and you’ll see GP teams breakdown the paddock and hospitality amenities in a matter of hours, stuffing the building and bike components into container crates. Those crates in-turn are packed onto team trucks, or loaded onto Dorna’s airplanes, so that MotoGP can travel to its next venue, and start the process over anew. Rinse & repeat 18 times, and you’ve got yourself a GP season.
Compressing the hours of work it takes to setup and takedown the team garage, Rizla Suzuki, with the help of Troy Lee Designs, put together a time lapse videos showing the process. Enjoy it and a bonus video of the Rizla garage during race day after the jump.