Suzuki team boss Paul Denning believes John Hopkins' form on his return to MotoGP proves both that the American still deserves a top-line ride, and that the Suzuki is an under-rated bike.
In his first MotoGP event since the end of 2008, Superbike convert Hopkins qualified 14th at Jerez today, just 1.5 seconds down on polesitter Casey Stoner's Honda. Hopkins is racing in Spain as a substitute for Alvaro Bautista, who broke his leg in a Qatar practice crash.
"These two days have demonstrated two things," Denning said.
"One that John Hopkins still deserves to be riding at the top level of the sport, and secondly, that Suzuki has done a great job to develop the GSV-R into a package that - without any adjustments at all - has allowed John to qualify the bike so competitively."
Hopkins admitted he had needed to pause and calm his style during qualifying.
"I was way too excited at the start and I was making too many mistakes, rushing into the corners and running wide all over the place - I was just a little bit too happy with myself out there!" he joked. "I had to come in and calm it down and breathe a bit before I went back out again.
"I managed to get a tow from a couple of riders because I need to get as much help as I can this weekend. At the end quite a few people crashed all around me and I was looking for someone to follow to help me learn the lines again. I got behind [Andrea] Dovizioso and [Casey] Stoner on my last softer tyre and although I made quite a few mistakes on my fastest lap, I still ended up going over two seconds quicker than I did yesterday."
He is now aiming for a top-10 finish in tomorrow's grand prix.
"Obviously the goal is to try and get into the top 10 and if we can that would be great," said Hopkins.
"Most importantly though I want to go out and enjoy myself and put on a good show for the fans and the sponsors and especially for the team for all the faith that they've put in to me - I hope I can reward them with a good result."
Denning said the team understood that Hopkins faced a very tough challenge tomorrow.
"Over two years away from riding a MotoGP machine - and the amount of braking force and mechanical grip that they have compared to production bikes - means that John's timing is inevitably a bit off and also that whilst he's very fit, there is a difference between normal fitness and MotoGP racing fitness," said Denning.
"The 27 laps tomorrow will be tough, but irrespective of what happens in the race itself, John has done a fantastic job so far and we couldn't have wished for a better stand-in for Alvaro."
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