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Home duo hope for local backing

Home duo hope for local backing

Home duo hope for local backing

Chris Burns and John Hopkins are hoping that raucous local support will power them to their best finishes of the season at the Cinzano British Grand Prix on Sunday. Whilst Burns gets the chance to make his MotoGP debut riding a severely underpowered 500cc ROC Yamaha, Hopkins is desperately trying to revive the fortunes of the Suzuki GSV-R in the absence of his more experienced team-mate Kenny Roberts. Both riders will need all the help they can get in the most competitive Grand Prix field for decades.

The Union Jack which is displayed proudly alongside the Stars and Stripes on his helmet and leathers show Hopkins´ allegiance to the country of his ancestry. The 19 year old is the only member of his family to be born in America. His mother and late father (a former TT racer) moved from Ealing in London to Ramona in California with his two older sisters before he was born, but he grew up with a strong feeling of his British roots. This weekend his family will get a rare opportunity to see him race.

`It´s going to be fun – there´s a bunch of people coming down to watch me tomorrow,´ said Hopkins, who finished eighth here one year ago after starting from sixth on the grid. `Donington was pretty good for me last year, and I´m looking forward to racing here. I like the track, and I hope the weather stays good. It´s hard to predict our chances, but some corners are similar to Jerez, where our bike handled the best it has all year. So I´m hoping for the best´.

After qualifying fifteenth on the first day, the Anglo-American added: `We got some new parts here, and it definitely seems to be a step in the right direction. The engine changes are the biggest improvement. They don´t make the bike faster or change the limits of performance, but they make it easier to get to the limit and to ride at the limit. In the afternoon we messed round with the set-up, but we went the wrong way. This may have interrupted our progress, with changes that weren´t necessary but that´s all part of trying to get the bike the best it can possibly be for Sunday.

Burns, meanwhile, has more direct roots in British soil having been born and raised just up the road from Donington in Newcastle. Yesterday he contested just his second qualifying session of the season since his Harris WCM bike was suspended at the first round at Suzuka, but he produced a monumental effort to qualify just four seconds behind Valentino Rossi on the 1993 YZR. `It's not ideal but at least we are getting on track after so much hard work by the team. That was alright for my first real go on a 500. I´ve never ridden a 500cc four-cylinder two-stroke before other then a handful of laps at Rockingham on Wednesday, so I´m pretty happy with coming out and qualifying. The bike is light, small, easy to ride and pretty smooth and I am quite surprised at how good it feels for the age of it. It rode sharp and felt strong´.

`From free practice in the morning it was in my mind throughout the session to not drop it, only having one bike was in the back of my mind. So when I ran wide into the gravel on the fifth lap, I was determined to hold onto it and put it down gently in the litter. I lost 20 minutes in that session, getting back into the garage whilst the mechanics re-fitted the exhaust pipe. Basically, all I´m missing is some horses down the straight, its amazing how much you can gain on the four-strokes in the corners, but as soon as you straighten up the four-stroke are gone. It was my second official practice session of the season, the first, back in April in Suzuka. I am really looking forward to the race and the mechanics have put in a huge effort to get the bike ready for this weekend´.

MotoGP, 2003, Cinzano British Grand Prix

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