With two riders out of MotoGP right now because of shoulder injuries (Dani Pedrosa & Colin Edwards), the number of riders in the premier class has dropped down to just 15 expected to compete at the British GP. With that news comes pressure from Dorna for the teams to find replacements, and with a limited talent pool, the usual suspects are being bandied about. One of the people on the short list is former-GP rider John Hopkins, who raced for Rizla Suzuki at the Spanish GP in Jerez after Álvaro Bautista broke his femur at Qatar and was unable to compete.
It was the first time that an American has won a British Superbike race, and his victory in Race 2 at Oulton Park was John Hopkins’s first race win in 11 years, making the event doubly special for the Anglo-American and his fans. Taking a second place finish in Race 1, Hopkins’s result this weekend was equally impressive as the Oulton track was another venue that the former MotoGP rider had to learn as he went.
Proving to be in top form on the Crescent Suzuki GSX-1000R, Hopper is now fourth in the British Superbike Championship. With a format a bit different than what us Americans are used to, moving into the the top six “Title Fighters” group of riders is tremendously important to winning the overall Championship. In BSB, only the riders who are in the top six in the points standings qualify to compete for the “British Superbike Champion” title, which occurs over the final three rounds of the season.
Qualifying for the Spanish GP got underway today under the sunny, but windy skies of Jerez, Spain. Unsurprising to just about anyone, the Repsol Hondas of Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa were on the top of the time sheets, with local Jorge Lorenzo completing the front row and only 0.16 seconds off the qualifying pace. While the rank and order surprises few, all eyes will be on the latter stages of tomorrow’s race to see how Dani Pedrosa can manage with his ailing shoulder, which the Spaniard will have operated on immediately after the GP
The qualifying session saw a total of six riders hitting the tarmac and gravel traps, with many blaming the wind as a contributing factor. The list of riders crashing includes Valentino Rossi, Ben Spies, Colin Edwards, Randy de Puniet, Karel Abraham, and Hiroshi Aoyama. Thankfully no one was injured, but in the case of Rossi, it meant trashing his preferred bike for the session, causing him to qualify on his other machine, and landing 12th on the starting grid.
He’ll be joined on the fourth row by teammate Nicky Hayden, who has been having a miserable season thus far on the Desmosedici GP11, and once again Randy de Puniet proved himself to be the fastest Ducati, qualifying seventh. Honorable mentions go out to John Hopkins, who continued his progress filling in for the injured Alvaro Bautista this weekend with a fourteenth grid position for tomorrow’s race. With a good start we could see a mid-pack finish for Hopper, who has shown marked improvement with each session on the Suzuki GSV-R.
With the rain very likely to make an appearance for tomorrow’s race, all bets are off for how the Spanish GP will shape-up.
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.
No sooner did news of Álvaro Bautista’s broken femur hit the MotoGP paddock did speculation begin as to whom would/could replace the unfortunately injured Spanish rider. The list of racers capable of piloting a MotoGP machine is short and distinguished, and the majority of speculation turned to whether John Hopkins would have another go at the Suzuki GSV-R in Qatar. The other option banded-about, although with much less fervor, were MotoGP-turned-Moto2 riders Ant West, Alex de Angelis, & Aleix Espargaró.
UPDATE: A&R just had another chat with Rizla Suzuki, racing this weekend depends on the ability to get a rider to Qatar in-time. No decision has been made, but the impression was that if Hopper can get out to Qatar, he’d be in the saddle for Qualifying on Saturday evening.
We’ve just gotten confirmation from the Rizla Suzuki team that Alvaro Bautista had broken his femur from his high-speed crash in FP3 at the Qatar GP. Currently undergoing tests at Hamad Medical Corporation in Doha, Bautista needs a pin for the broken bone, an operation the rider would like to undertake in his home country of Spain, but the team is still evaluating whether to undergo that surgery in Qatar.
Bautista’s highside crash occurred at considerable speed in Losail’s Turn 15, a fast left-hander. While the team will release more information later tonight, there are no plans to bring in a new rider for the Qatar GP race this weekend, and all eyes are now on whether Bautista return can return in time for the next MotoGP round, which is on April 3rd at Jerez.
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.