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Liuzzi swaps four wheels for two 01 Nov 2006

MotoGP F1 Seat Swap. Image shows John Hopkins (USA/ Suzuki) and Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA/ Scuderia Toro Rosso) in action. Image © GEPA pictures/ hochzwei/ Juergen Tap.

Toro Rosso’s Vitantonio Liuzzi and MotoGP star John Hopkins exchanged race seats on Tuesday, at a one-off event held at Valencia. Liuzzi sampled Hopkins’ Suzuki Grand Prix bike, while the Anglo-American got his first taste of Formula One power.

Liuzzi tested the bike that Hopkins used just two days ago at the Spanish circuit for the final round of the MotoGP championship. A keen motorcyclist himself, Liuzzi admitted he had to be more restrained than he might have liked.

“The bike is like a crazy horse and it is really difficult to keep the front end down,” explained the Italian. “I was trying, but I kept something in reserve because I could feel the shadow of Franz and Gerhard (Toro Rosso team bosses Tost and Berger) telling me to be careful as I am testing in two weeks! It was a fantastic adrenalin rush. The most amazing thing about the bike was the grip, as you can lean right over. Unbelievable.”

Meanwhile, Hopkins, whose only other experience of a four-wheeled race vehicle was in karting, impressed, lapping the Spanish circuit in 1m 19.8s - just five seconds shy of a competitive Formula One driver’s time.

“At first it was a bit overwhelming, looking at all the buttons on the steering wheel, but once I understood the most important thing is to keep the heat in the tyres under braking then it all got easier,” said Hopkins, after getting to grips with the Toro Rosso. “It’s easy to say you can do this but when the time actually comes, it’s quite a challenge and I spun it a couple of times. I was trying my hardest and going for it without being reckless.”

And both men’s verdicts on the other’s efforts? “I always knew it would be easier for me to get into four wheels than for Tonio on two, but with his lack of experience I think he did real good,” said Hopkins of Liuzzi. “He popped a wheelie and got his knee down!”

“The Formula One car is a much more complicated technically to drive than the bike,” added Liuzzi. “But once John got the hang of the car and how it handled, he was very impressive and very fast.”