When Suzuki announced that they would be pulling out of MotoGP at the end of the 2011 season, they were keen to emphasize that the withdrawal was only temporary, saying they were planning a return to MotoGP in 2014. Though many paddock regulars were sceptical about such a suggestion, Suzuki is sticking to its guns, it seems. In an interview with Italian website GPOne, Suzuki Racing’s technical director Shinichi Sahara reaffirmed that they were still working towards a 2014 return to MotoGP, based on the motorcycle the factory had been developing before the decision was made to pull out.
Bad fortune continues to follow John Hopkins, as the Anglo-American rider broke his hand today during a high-speed crash at the Phillip Island World Superbike test. Again breaking his right hand, Hopkins tweeted the following after the incident: “Well I’m absolutely devastated to announce that after a high speed crash I’ve broke a bone in my R/ hand ! Severity is yet to be determined.” Hopper would continue, saying that he would fly back to the United States today, where he will have his hand examined and treated.
John Hopkins continues his stepping-stone return to MotoGP, and accordingly will compete in the 2012 World Superbike Championship with Paul Denning’s Crescent Fixi Suzuki team (note the newly announced title sponsor). Campaigning on the 2012 Suzuki GSX-R1000, Hopper will have a steep nine-fingered challenge this season, as Suzuki has pulled its official race support out of WSBK. As such, Yoshimura has been tapped by Crescent Suzuki to help develop the GSX-R’s motor, while the team will continue to employ its lessons learned from both the British Superbike Championship and MotoGP paddocks.
Showing briefly the bikes that John Hopkins and Leon Camier will campaign in World Superbike this season, Crescent Fixi Suzuki is already on the road and headed to Phillip Island for the WSBK pre-season test that is scheduled for February 26th. For those that don’t know (and there is no reason you should), co-title sponsor Fixi is not an urban-oriented bicycle company, but instead provides foreign exchange solutions to Tier 1 investors — whatever those are.
With the news that Crescent Suzuki would make a move from the British Superbike Championship, and enter into the World Superbike Championship, all eyes have been on whom the British team would field as riders. Anglo-American John Hopkins was heavily favored to be the still-unannounced teammate to Leon Camier on the squad, provided the former-MotoGP racer didn’t find his way back into the premier class. With Suzuki withdrawing from MotoGP last week and effectively ending Hopper’s 2012 MotoGP bid, Crescent Suzuki has now confirmed that Hopkins will make his return to World Superbike racing with the all-British team.
The World Superbike team roster will grow a little bit next year, as Crescent Suzuki, formerly of British Superbike fame, will join the premier production motorcycle racing series. While there was considerable chatter over whom would ride for Crescent Suzuki, the British team has confirmed that Leon Camier will race on the company’s Suzuki GSX-R1000 race bike. Leaving some room for more paddock speculation, Crescent Suzuki says it will announce Camier’s teammate at a later date, an announcement that surely is influenced by whether or not John Hopkins makes a move to the MotoGP Championship for the 2012 season.
With just one more round left in the 2011 British Superbike Championship, John Hopkins has undergone more surgery, again having his hand operated on for injuries he sustained after crashing at the Czech GP back in August. The surgery comes as a surprise as the BSB season is so close to completion, along with the fact that Hopkins’ dominate wins at Donington Park shoved him to the front of the points leader board in the Championship standings.
“There was a lot of pain in my fingers at Donington Park and I knew it wasn’t right and in fact I was very worried I’d aggravated the injury. So I rushed back to see my surgeon on the Monday,” explained Hopper. “The X-Rays showed that my middle finger wasn’t locating properly in the second knuckle. Fortunately the bone area that had previously been crushed was now nicely healed and so my surgeon was able to put in screws and plates so as to stabilize the finger.”
John Hopkins is a busy man with his duties to Crescent Racing. Not only is the Anglo-American riding as a wild card at World Superbike’s next round at Silverstone, but the former-MotoGP racer will also ride Álvaro Bautista’s back-up Suzuki GSV-R at the Czech GP in three weeks’ time (the same course where Hopkins secured a second place finish in 2007, his best-ever results in MotoGP).
The outing will be Hopper’s second cameo appearance in the teal blue colors of Rizla Suzuki this year, as he filled-in for Bautista at the Spanish GP in Jerez, after the factory rider broke his femur at the Qatar GP. Hopkins is currently second in the British Superbike Championship, in a season that many are tipping as a trial-point for Hopper’s return back to MotoGP.
John Hopkins has seemingly been unable to get out to Qatar in time to fill-in for the injured Álvaro Bautista, instead Rizla Suzuki will go without a rider for the Qatar GP. Despite that setback, Hopper will pick-up with the Suzuki squad at the Spanish GP, racing once again on the GSV-R at Jerez. Out of all the riders in the MotoGP paddock, Hopkins has had the most success with the Suzuki MotoGP bike, finishing fourth in the 2007 MotoGP Championship.
It seemed John Hopkins’s return to MotoGP was well underway, as reports earlier this year said the Anglo-American would be testing at MotoGP’s last pre-season test being held at Qatar this week; however Hopper’s stint on the GSV-R seems to have been relegated to merely doing some laps on the Suzuki MotoGP bike as part of a PR video campaign for the Rizla squad.
Hopper’s test originally was supposed to assess the former-MotoGP rider’s ability to apex a GP machine, and give Paul Denning’s squad an option should Alvaro Bautista become injured in the 2011 season. After Saturday’s filming though, Hopper’s return seems less likely, but the now British Superbike rider remains hopeful.
Despite newly announced title sponsor Samsung, British Superbike squad Crescent Racing will not enter John Hopkins as a wildcard entry for the Donington Park round of World Superbike racing as previously expected. Instead, both the American rider and his new teammate, reigning BST Champion Jon Kirkham, will be entered for the British WSBK round at Silverstone later in the season.
Originally, the team had announced that Hopkins would race at Donington, but with a rider new to the team testing today at Cartagena, it seems as though Crescent Suzuki has decided to wait to join the WSBK fray. They will continue their testing March 8th at Guadix, Spain in advance of the BSB opener at Brands Hatch on April 25th.