Hopkins got the opportunity...
Hopkins got the opportunity for three wild card rides with the Rizla Suzuki MotoGP team, partnering Alvaro Bautista (19), who is moving to the San Carlo Honda Gresini squad for 2012.
John Hopkins’ hopes of moving to MotoGP have been put on hold for a year with the expected announcement that Suzuki was withdrawing from the World Championship. But Hopkins won’t be absent from the world scene, with the likelihood that he’ll be joining Brit Leon Camier on the Crescent Suzuki team which is moving from British Superbike to World Superbike.
“Obviously if that’s the option, yeah, it’s the best thing,” Hopkins said in a phone call from his home in Ramona as he recovered from recent surgery to correct an infection in his right hand ring finger before any official announcement.
Hopkins nearly won the British Superbike Championship this year, coming up short by a scant .016 sec. to Swan Yamaha’s Tommy Hill in the final race of the season. Hill finished the year with 647 points to 645 for Hopkins. Hopkins’ performance and longtime allegiance to Suzuki earned him three MotoGP rides, none of which turned out well. Throughout the season, Suzuki’s participation at the start of the 1000cc era was the subject of constant speculation. At first it was thought they might start the year on the Suzuki GSV-R800 while the bugs were worked out of the 1000cc race bike. That gave way to speculation about a limited schedule, and finally the likelihood that Suzuki won’t take part in MotoGP in 2012.
“I’ve been waiting on Suzuki’s decision throughout, because with the history and wanting to make the future and everything, I’ve been waiting for Suzuki to obviously make their decision,” Hopkins said. “But, obviously, nothing’s official, but I mean it seems pretty clear on what’s going on. Although, I can’t confirm anything, it’s pretty clear right now what’s happening. All the media and stuff that I’ve been reading, it seems like it can be pretty accurate.”
Hopkins had to have emergency...
Hopkins had to have emergency surgery to deal with a secondary infection in his finger injured back at Brno in August that has been giving him problems since then.
Hopkins had earlier offers from other teams, both in MotoGP and World Superbike, but most of those seats have been taken. Now the option of moving with Crescent Suzuki from British to World Superbike is the most appealing. The move would give him year-to-year continuity for the first time since 2006-07 when he rode for Rizla Suzuki. Then came four years of moving around, from Kawasaki MotoGP (2008) to Stiggy Honda World Superbike (2009) to M4 Monster Energy Suzuki AMA (2010) to Samsung Crescent Suzuki in BSB this year.
Hopkins made a personal investment in the Samsung Crescent Suzuki team to ensure stability and get his career back on track. It worked. Not only did he nearly win the championship, but he bonded well with the team, which was important going forward.
“I mean, if you look at it a year ago, if I’d said I’d be in the position to be taking the position with World Superbike and stuff like that, with also MotoGP previous offers on the table and stuff like that, I mean I’d be over the moon,” he said. “So obviously there’s bound to be some disappointment, obviously, in what’s happening with Suzuki and stuff. But it is what it is and I’m just really, really excited to be moving along and to be jumping up to a world stage.
“Obviously, MotoGP, like I said, was my goal, but to be racing on the world stage on a really competitive machine on a great team that I’ve never felt so much at home with, yeah, I mean it’s a win-win situation. It’s just another step in getting myself back to where want to go. With all things considered I think it could turn out to be a really, really good year. And it’s not going to be easy by any means, but the possibility of being able to take home a World Championship is there. And the team is definitely capable of it. So I think with the right package and a good year from myself I think we can fight for that. That would be the biggest achievement of my career thus far. Hopefully, that would also move me back to, obviously, a MotoGP ride like I’d intended to.” It was announced today that Crescent Suzuki will be working in collaboration with Yoshimura Japan on its World Superbike effort, with Yoshimura handling the engine building details. Suzuki has also reportedly pulled all factory support for any superbike racing efforts on the world level.
First he has to get healthy, which he hasn’t been for some time. Hopkins injured the ring finger on his right hand during a wild card ride in the Czech Grand Prix at Brno. The finger appeared to be healing, but the hardware came loose during practice for his final wild card at the Malaysian Grand Prix in late-October. Hopkins was forced to withdraw from the race and returned home for surgery. A bone graft and adjustment of the screws and plates was done on Nov. 1 and the finger appeared to be healing well. But this past Friday morning, Nov. 11, an infection set in that woke him in the middle of the night and sent him to two different hospitals.
“Everything was fine, I had the cast off, everything was going well and then this last Friday I cleaned it, went to bed and then woke up at like four in the morning with the most severe pain ever,” he said. “And it was just like purple and swollen and, yeah, I had to get rushed to the emergency room. It was clear what was going on. I knew it was infected. And then luckily they got ahold of my surgeon and then I was transported from the emergency room near my house straight to where my surgeon is, because he was doing operations. And then, yeah, within 30 minutes of arriving there they’d cut it open and then I had to go in there and clean it out and everything.”
The surgery included removing all the hardware and the bone graft and putting the hand in a cast. That will be followed by three weeks of intensive antibiotics, “so it’s going to be immobilized anyway. It’s going to be in a cast. So basically just going to cast it up and hopefully it’ll be healing up naturally.”
Hopkins will likely miss a test before the end of the year, but he’s not worried. “It’s not like I got to really learn anything on the bike or get comfortable on the at all. I know the second I jump on the bike, I’ve never felt so comfortable on a bike ever. So I know I can immediately get myself on the bike and get up to speed really quickly.
“Yeah, it’s really very positive. And I’ll be working with the same crew chief (Lez Pearson) and stuff like that again. So that would be, that’s going to be a huge benefit. Because he was intending, wherever I was ending up going, I mean, the crew chief was most likely going to be coming with me, because we’ve managed to build a really strong great relationship together. So I mean he’s going to be working my bike next year, so that’s going to be huge.”