John Hopkins will make his much-anticipated return to the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship at the next round of the season at Brands Hatch (17/18/19 July) as the American ace prepares for his Ducati debut with the Lloyds British Moto Rapido team.
Hopkins came within striking distance of the MCE BSB crown in 2011 after a ferocious battle with Tommy Hill in one of the most memorable races in decades. The season-long fight for the title went down to the wire between the two title protagonists and was decided by just 0.006s in the final race of the season at Brands Hatch making it the closest ever title decider in championship history.
Hopkins endured a challenging season in 2014 with the Tyco Suzuki team but now he is back and wants to prove that he can take on the international field of world-class opposition and return to glory. ‘Hopper’ has never before raced with Ducati, but is confident his experiences in MotoGP and both the World and British Superbike Championships puts him in a strong position to challenge onboard the Panigale, deputising for Jakub Smrz who misses the round through injury.
Hopkins will run #15 as he returns to MCE BSB rather than his usual 21 – the number which he ran throughout his childhood whilst racing motocross before moving into circuit racing.
The summer Brands Hatch Superbike event has in the past been a happy hunting ground for the dominant force of a Californian rider onboard a Ducati; in 2001 a huge crowd witnessed American Ben Bostrom claim a double victory after battling with Neil Hodgson, Troy Bayliss and Colin Edwards during the August World Championship event.
Hopkins said: “I am really excited about this opportunity to be honest, especially because it feels like it’s been a long time coming! After my race plans fell through before the start of the season I was left with nothing and so from then on I have been pretty much playing a waiting game. I have been to some of the races and I have followed the others at home, but I have been doing everything I possibly can to be ready for an opportunity like this to come.
“For sure it’s been frustrating waiting but I looked at my career and decided straight away it couldn’t end as it did in 2014 and because of that I am more motivated than ever to prove I have more. This is the moment I want to resurrect myself and show what I can still do. This is a great opportunity for me to prove this. I am sorry for Jakub that he is injured, but I intend on doing my best to do him, myself and the team proud.
“I have a lot of memories of Brands Hatch and nobody can forget the famous end to 2011 can they?! It has always been a great circuit for me and I know I can enjoy it – the track knowledge there will definitely help me especially with my limited knowledge of this bike. The team and Kuba have proven that the bike is competitive this season and despite having never ridden a Ducati before, I think it should suit my riding style.
“I am really motivated to go out and do the best job I possibly can and I think that should mean aiming for a result well inside the top ten. I am not saying it’s that easy because the level of competition in the championship this year is incredible. I feel excited that I can finally get back on track, especially as the support I have had from the British fans continues to be amazing. I am feeling really positive right now and I want to repay everyone for their faith and support by putting on one hell of a good show at Brands Hatch!”
Team owner Steve Moore commented: “Snetterton was going very well for us after some significant updates to the bike during the break, so for Jakub to be struck with more bad luck left the whole team feeling cheated of a top result that we all deserved. It was vital for us to keep the momentum in the team for everyone involved so with Jakub injured for at least two rounds, we had to enlist a rider that could do the job for us. John was our first choice and after a meeting with Ducati and our sponsor Lloyds British I was thrilled to secure him for this round.
“John’s enthusiasm to join us for the Brands Hatch GP round was clear from the first conversation – he is clearly focused and dedicated to be back in BSB. We have a shakedown test beforehand so he can meet the team and try the Lloyds British Panigale R for the first time. The Championship is very unforgiving this season – the depth of talent in the riders and teams is unrivalled so we understand we are asking a lot of John, but I believe he can really benefit from the development this year and we can give him a great package. We would also like to thank the BSB fans for their continued support.”
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