By Peter McLaren
John Hopkins says Kawasaki is sick of being seen as the MotoGP underdog, and that he is determined to be the man that takes them to the front of the premier-class grid.
After six seasons in MotoGP, and five straight at Suzuki - the last of which reaped his first four podium finishes and a best yet fourth in the world championship standings - Hopkins made the decision to switch to Kawasaki, the only manufacturer yet to win a four-stroke MotoGP race.
spoke to Hopkins during a break in his testing schedule at Sepang last week - and began by asking him about the reasons behind his team change...
"Suzuki and I left on clean terms. There were no uneasy thoughts afterwards," said Hopkins. "We basically explained to them that it's just a new motivation for me. After being in MotoGP for the last six years, it's something to keep me fresh and keep me going for another five or six years.
"The Kawasaki has always been viewed from the outside as a bit of the underdog. But - watching the bike out on track personally during the last year or two - I've seen its potential and I just don't think that the potential has been maximised by a lot of the Kawasaki riders in the past.
"Also, because they've been perceived as the underdog, everyone at Kawasaki is extremely motivated to get to the front of this championship - and I'm hoping I'll be the one to take them there.
"I know that with their budget, their motivation, their engineers and some hard work by us all we can make this bike into a front-running machine in a short amount of time.
"So now it's the riders' turn to go out, tell them what the problems are, get them fixed and get this thing to the front of the pack real quick. Everything seems to be working out so far, so good. I get along well with everyone in the team so things are on the up and up right now," he added.
In order to capitalise on the ground gained last season, the highlight of which was a second place finish for Randy de Puniet at Motegi, Team Green has opted for a constant flow of new parts to determine the format of its '08 - rather than an all-new 'ground-up' project. But even the evolutionary process is not always perfect.