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Hopkins Improves as Melandri Makes Kawasaki Debut

By: Tasha Crook | Published 28 October 2008, 14:35 | Views: 1,077 | tags: motogp, kawasaki racing, john hopkins, juan martinez, marco melandri, valencia, spain
Less than 24 hours after the chequered flag at Valencia brought the 2008 season to a close, John Hopkins and new teammate, Marco Melandri, were back on track and working towards improving Kawasaki's Ninja ZX-RR machines ahead of the 2009 season.
Hopkins exited the pit box aboard his normal lime green liveried Ninja ZX-RR, while Melandri opted for the stealth approach for his debut aboard Kawasaki's 800cc, inline four-cylinder MotoGP racer. The Italian's two machines were decked out in bare carbon fibre bodywork, with only two small screen stickers providing any indication about whose hands were on the controls.

With Bridgestone now the sole tyre supplier to MotoGP, Hopkins focussed on adapting his bike set-up to get the most from the new front tyre supplied by the Japanese tyre manufacturer. Happy with the changes, the Kawasaki pilot then moved on to comparison testing different engine specifications using both of his Ninja ZX-RR machines.

Hopkins declared himself happy with the progress made during today's test, at the end of which he was ninth fastest overall.

Melandri's focus today was on familiarising himself with both a new bike and a new crew. The 26-year-old former world champion was quick to adapt to the characteristics of Kawasaki's Ninja ZX-RR, as he worked with the team's engineers to refine both the ergonomics and the set-up of his two machines.

The Italian's adaptability was highlighted at the end of the day, as he finished the test tenth fastest on the timesheet and just two-hundredths of a second behind his new teammate. Unsurprisingly, Melandri declared himself satisfied with his first experience of Kawasaki's MotoGP machine.

Both Kawasaki riders will complete one final day of testing at Valencia tomorrow, before almost a month away from the track. Testing will resume for the Kawasaki Racing Team in Phillip Island at the end of November, concluding just prior to the winter testing ban.
John Hopkins - #21 - 74 Laps - 1'33.760

"The front tyre we were allocated this morning feels identical to the one that Valentino and Casey have been using all year, but we've not been able to run on our bike before. Today we've had the chance to make some changes to the overall set-up of the bike, and it looks like we've made some real progress. I've now got a much better feeling from the front than I've had for some time, and that's given me back the confidence to push harder in the corners. We've also run back-to-back tests using both bikes on two different engine specifications, and that's allowed us to make a direct comparison and identify a clear direction for development. It's also been interesting to start work with my new crew chief, Naoya Kaneko, as he has a very structured approach to the rider debrief and I think this will make a difference when we're pushed for time during race weekends. Overall, it's been a pretty productive day and I'm really happy with the improvements we've made to the bike; it's completely different now and I felt more comfortable on it today than I have all season. If we get more dry weather tomorrow then I hope we can continue to make improvements to the bike."
Juan Martinez - Marco Melandri's Crew Chief

"It's always interesting when you start working with a new rider, and I think today has been a good start both for Marco and our crew. He's been able to lap consistently throughout today and his comments after each session have allowed us to start working out what he needs to go fast on our bike, which is very different to the one on which he finished the race yesterday. Sure we have some points still to improve, but overall Marco's first impression was good. His riding style seems to be well suited to the characteristics of our Ninja ZX-RR, and this means that the comments he makes should make it easier for our engineers in Japan to identify the development direction of the bike for next year. Marco is a guy who, in the past, has been up there and fighting for race wins, so he understands what he needs to go fast, and this is exactly what we need to take the Ninja ZX-RR to the next level of development."

Test Times:

1. Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati Marlboro Team 1'32.464
2. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda Team +0.208
3. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Fiat Yamaha +0.457
4. Chris Vermeulen (AUS) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP +0.678
5. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP +0.861
6. Alex De Angelis (RSM) San Carlo Honda Gresini +0.911
7. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Fiat Yamaha +1.086
8. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) Repsol Honda Team +1.212
9. John Hopkins (USA) Kawasaki Racing Team +1.296
10. Marco Melandri (ITA) Kawasaki Racing Team +1.318
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