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GP Week : Issue 126
JOHN Hopkins will take another step in the rehabilitation of his MotoGP career at the next round at Brno, with a second wild card ride on the improved Rizla Suzuki. And negotiations are under way for him to take part also in the last three races of the year, to bring the Suzuki team up to two-rider strength again. This time, the 28-year-old American said, will be different from his 10th-placed first outing at Jerez: his first time on a MotoGP bike since 2008. “I got thrown in the deep end I Spain,” he said: he was a last-minute replacement for injured team regular Alvaro Bautista. Now, with half-a-season of British Superbike racing behind him he is more confident. “I will have a lot more race-craft,” he said. Brno is also a favourite track. He achieved his best MotoGP result there with second in 2007. After switching from Suzuki to Kawasaki in 2008, Hopkins’s career has been on a downward slide powered by injuries and personal problems, but his aim is to get back to MotoGP. “I’m really pumped to be going to Brno again, and as far as the Suzuki goes, I think it’s a great bike and the package is a lot better than when I rode it last in 2007.” Hopkins will be re-united with crew chief Stuart Shenton (ex- Kevin Schwantz), who was let go by the Suzuki team when it dropped to one rider for this season. WORLD Champion Jorge Lorenzo was caught out by his own launch control system on Saturday morning at Laguna, when his Yamaha M1 flicked him sky-high at low speed. Lorenzo landed heavily on his right side on the track, and was then struck by his bike as he slid into the gravel, ending up in obvious pain. But he limped off, hadn’t broken anything, and emerged from the medical centre a couple of hours later ready to set a string of fastest laps to make absolutely sure of pole position. The reason showed the down side of sophisticated electronics. The session was over; Lorenzo essayed a practice start as usual. This meant disengaging the traction control and relying on launch control, which measures different parameters. The TC automatically takes over at the first down-shift; but Lorenzo approached the bogey Turn 5 in second, without downshifting. He was only cruising round the corner at around 70 km/h, but when he opened the throttle there was no electronic intervention to prevent full power being released, and it triggered an instant and violent high-side. The rider at first feared broken legs or worse, because for the first few seconds “I didn’t feel my legs.” The accident was a sobering moment in the ramshackle Laguna paddock, threatening not only the race to come but the while championship, where Lorenzo has been closing remorselessly on Stoner. There were several fallers in practice at the frantic and challenging US circuit, shortest of the season at just 3.610 km, including Hayden, Pedrosa, Bautista, Spies and Elias. The only one hurt was Randy de Puniet, who suffered fractures to two vertebrae and possible his pelvis at the same Turn 5. He walked away, but was later struck by severe pain, and was ruled out of the race the next morning. Lorenzo launched by his own safety aids HOPKINS TO RACE AT BRNO ... 14