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Rossi: "Hopkins rode really well"

Rossi: 'Hopkins rode really well'

Rossi: "Hopkins rode really well"

Valentino Rossi admitted he couldn't have done much more to prevent John Hopkins from taking provisional pole position at Motegi today, lapping just 0. 045 seconds slower than the Anglo-American rider. Rossi clocked a best time of 1'47.275 after fitting a soft tyre at the end of the session, but was unable to usurp the impressive Hopkins, who tops the provisional grid for the first time in his career.

"I'm happy because the bike is going well here, and better this afternoon than this morning," said Rossi. "It feels stable and good to ride. We've made good improvements since the Brno test and also at the Estoril test, and we have a bit better pace.

"I was unable to get provisional pole, Hopkins rode really well, and he is up front. I made one really good lap. Honda and Suzuki seem very competitive here but so are we. This is not my favourite circuit but when the bike works well the track always seems better."

Rossi's team-mate Carlos Checa fared less well in the afternoon session, suffering two falls; a stark contrast to the fastest time of all that he set in the unofficial first qualifying session this morning.

"Not the best day," admitted Checa, who qualified 13th in a time of 1'48.658. "I had two tumbles in the timed session, one at the beginning and another at the end. It was unexpected because this morning's session was good. I made a small mistake in turn one and then I had to swap to my second bike, which I was not as comfortable with.

"With a soft rear tyre fitted just before the end the feel was a little scary from the front but I pushed quite a lot. Maybe I pushed a bit too hard on the brakes, trying to get a good lap time. I just want to forget about today and restart tomorrow."

Despite the mixed fortunes for his riders. Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team Director Davide Brivio was happy with their overall progress. "Valentino had a very good day," said Brivio. "We were able to keep a good pace through all of the timed session and only missed provisional pole by a small margin.

"Vale's best lap was slower in the first section but he recovered in T3 and T4 and that was very impressive. So far we're looking OK and what we tested at the Estoril test has worked well. For Carlos, it was a case of good this morning then two crashes this afternoon.

"He can go fast but now we need to put together a good session and he can be ready for the race as well."

MotoGP, 2004, CAMEL GRAND PRIX OF JAPAN, John Hopkins, Valentino Rossi

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