John Hopkins will return to Moto Rapido Ducati for the 2017 MCE British Superbike Championship season as the team looks to bounce back from a 'shocking' 2016 with a return to the podium.
The former MotoGP rider – a BSB runner-up in 2011 – completed the second-half of the 2015 season on the Moto Rapido Ducati Panigale before switching to the Tommy Hill-run ePayMe Yamaha squad in 2016.
For 2017, Hopkins will return to Moto Rapido in an effort to build on the form that saw him take team's maiden podium finish in the final round of the 2015 season at Brands Hatch.
“To be back with the Moto Rapido team and on the Ducati again is something I am really so excited about. I enjoyed last season but I never felt as comfortable on the Yamaha as I did the first time I rode the Ducati in 2015. It's such a great bike to ride and it really suits my riding style; I certainly hadn't had as much fun riding motorcycles in a while until I had my first laps on the Panigale in 2015.
“I love this team and they were always one of my first choices for the new season. We had a podium finish together in 2015 and I know that they have come on leaps and bounds with the development since then.
“During my time with them previously there were several occasions when we were in guaranteed podium finishing positions until we had some minor technical problems because so much was so new, but now this bike is the complete package.
“My hopes are extremely high for next season and it is going to be one of the most competitive seasons ever I feel. We say it every year, but with so many riders from the World Championship on the grid, some new riders and some of the established contenders it is a stacked field of world class riders for sure. Our aim and focus is to go testing and then be there right from the start.”
Keen to get back to podium winning ways with Hopkins after a difficult 2016 campaign, team owner Steve Moore is confident the American will pick up where he left off in 2015.
Team owner Steve Moore commented: "This time I wasn't going to miss out on John so we started talking right after the last race of 2016. The last time he was in the team we had consistently great lap times and even our first podium. Importantly the fit with John, our team and the Panigale was perfect. John's very aggressive riding style and the Ducati work well together so I will be expecting top results.
“BSB is going to be one of the toughest classes in any motorsport competition in 2017 with top class riders making up all the points scoring positions. It's a cruel class where being fractions of a second off put you at the back. I know we have the bike with some good updates for 2017 from Ducati Corse and a very good technical team, so I needed a rider who is very fast, is familiar with the pressure of the championship and loves the Panigale - so of course John was my obvious choice.
“Myself, the team and sponsors are very happy and I'm sure our fans will be too. We had a shocking 2016 but taking positives we have proven the bike's speed and reliability plus tested many new parts. I'm really looking forward to John jumping on the 2017 spec bike and can't wait to go testing now.”
Moto Rapido Ducati started the 2016 season with Danny Buchan only to part ways after seven rounds, with Stuart Easton and Alex Polita coming on board in the final races.
In a trying season all round for the ePayMe Yamaha team, Hopkins peaked with a pair of podiums in the final round at Brands Hatch en route to 14th in the overall standings.