The Grand Prix of China began today with the first two practice sessions of the weekend. In perfect warm, dry conditions, the premier class field headed out onto the 5.281km circuit at Shanghai with Kawasaki riders, John Hopkins and Anthony West, aboard their Bridgestone-shod Ninja ZX-RRs.
The 24-year-old Hopkins who, on starting Sunday's race, will become the youngest ever rider to achieve the landmark of partaking in 100 MotoGP rounds, came fifth fastest in both sessions, improving his times in the afternoon with a best lap of 2'00.591. Just over half a second off the leader, the Anglo-American is looking strong at the track, which boasts a fast, sweeping layout, well suited to the Kawasaki machine.
Meanwhile, West put his best lap in during the morning practice, with a time of 2'01.984 and a staggering top speed of 320km/h. The 27-year-old Australian was one of a number of riders, including pack-leader Valentino Rossi, whose early times were their strongest of the day and, as the Kawasaki squad experimented with settings on the Kawasaki ZX-RR, West's position on combined times was 15th in the group.
Practice continues tomorrow morning, followed by the qualifying session in the afternoon, at 13.55 hours, local time, prior to Sunday's 22-lap race.
John Hopkins, "Today we worked on setting up the machine to suit my preferences around this circuit. I really like this track and I've always gone quite well here. In the afternoon session we tried a few different Bridgestone tyre combinations to find a choice that will last the distance on Sunday. We also evaluated various parts and we've finished practice very positively. I'm feeling confident and tomorrow we need to qualify well to put us in the best possible stead for the race."
Anthony West, "Although the times are not brilliant, we are making some progress and our fastest laps have been in the closing stages of each session. Hopefully, this means there is more to come, and we can continue going faster. Our biggest problem is with the power delivery and corner exit, where I feel we are losing a lot of time due to a lack of traction. Tonight we will review the data and try to find a solution to continue moving forwards."