9 October 2011
Hopkins, Hill set for final race showdown
Hopkins fights back to 12th place for four potentially crucial points, while Hill can't take full advantage on the way to fourth.
The 2011 MCE British Superbike Championship will be decided in the final race of the season after a dramatic turnaround saw John Hopkins have his lead reduced to just two points by Tommy Hill
Hopkins went into the race with an 11 point cushion over Hill, but saw it all but wiped out when he slowed with an apparent electric glitch on lap one. Pulling off the circuit, Hopkins switched everything off and back on again, to get going at the back of the field, albeit almost a minute off the leaders.
However, a high attrition rate, coupled to a marvellous fight back ride would see Hopkins get back up to 12th place, scoring a crucial four points, while Hill had to settle for fourth position after fading in the latter stages and losing third to James Ellison on the final lap.
Even so, fourth place for Hill is still enough for him to reduce the gap to a very manageable two points with just one race remaining. Should the two finish on the same points, Hill would win due to his greater number of race wins this season.
The race itself, held in difficult conditions after an earlier shower left damp patches on an otherwise dry circuit, was won by Shane Byrne, but the real story of the race was occurring behind him as Hopkins and Hill played the mathematical game to work out who would take the advantage with one round to go.
Indeed, the pendulum looked to be swinging very much in Hill's favour when Hopkins, having gotten a fairly bad start to run seventh, pulled off the circuit and coasted to a stop. With a poorly-timed DNF looming, Hopkins shut the bike down and restarted it, fortunately getting the Suzuki going again to rejoin the track. Even so, he remained well outside the points, while Hill was up at the front.
Furthermore, Hill's cause was aided further when race one winner Michael Laverty, who snatched the lead from Byrne with a bold move around the outside of Paddock Hill Bend on lap two, crashed out at Druids after running slightly wide and touching a damp patch. Just a lap later, Josh Brookes followed suit by falling at Paddock Hill Bend, the Australian's bike catapulting through the gravel trap in an accident akin to the one that afflicted him at the start of the year.
As such, Byrne now led from Hill, though Hopkins's team-mate Jon Kirkham was doing his bit to ensure he made things difficult by snatching second on lap four.
With Kirkham making good headway into Byrne, Hill attempted to stay with the Suzuki rider, but instead found himself in a fairly lonely third, knowing his 16 points would overhaul Hopkins should he non-score.
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