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Hartog back to inspire Suzuki

Hartog back to inspire Suzuki

Hartog back to inspire Suzuki

Wil Hartog was back in the MotoGP paddock today to watch his old Suzuki team do battle at his home circuit, and the influence of the five-time Grand Prix winner seemed to rub off as Kenny Roberts posted his best grid position of the season in seventh place, with team-mate John Hopkins just three positions behind him.

"Suzuki is always close to my heart so I am very pleased to see the progress they are making this season," said Hartog, who took his victories between 1978 and 1980.

"This year's bike is obviously improved. I can see that the steering is still heavy on the fast changes of direction, but the cornering is good and the bike seems to accelerate well. And the mood of the team is a lot better also."

Roberts was fastest in the morning free practice and set his best time in the afternoon despite a technical hitch midway through the session. "I started off well, but then I looked down and saw something on the bike that made me a little worried about tipping it in the next corner," commented the former World Champion.

"I ended up running off the track and trying to get through the gravel to get back to the grass. When I hit the grass I spun out … it was like ice. I got it going again, but with no grip I finally stalled it in the grass. I guess I had a rough day after that.

"We have new tyres here and we need to make our bike more stable on the straightaways because of the new profile. That's a little setting thing we need to get right tomorrow.

" I don't really know where we're at race-wise – just try and get a good start and see what happens, but I'm happy with where I'm at as far as starting position goes."

Hopkins celebrated his second top ten grid position in successive races after a complicated session, particularly for tyre choice. "We started out on soft tyres – not qualifiers, but a soft compound," commented Hopkins. "I wanted to stay out and get my rhythm in the dry then I came in for qualifying tyres to go for a time in case it started raining again.

"At that stage there were still some damp patches, and wasn't the best time, but it put us on the board. After that I was going through tyres with just time to do a couple of laps on each. I found some that had good grip for two laps and I think the durability will be good.

"We'll get the answer tomorrow. Then I put on another qualifier with time for only one lap and went for a better time. I can't complain at tenth. Tomorrow I'll try and get with the lead group and go for it. I hope it's dry … it'll be more fun."

Tags:
MotoGP, 2004, GAULOISES TT ASSEN

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