Former MotoGP rider John Hopkins finished his first session as a World Superbike rider in 16th position out of the 30 riders, but within one second of the top, during Friday free practice session at Valencia.

The Anglo-American, who claimed four podium finishes on his way to fourth place in the 2007 MotoGP World Championship with Suzuki, has switched to WSBK following Kawasaki's winter withdraw from MotoGP.

Having missed the first two rounds of the WSBK season, Hopkins will ride alongside Leon Haslam at Stiggy Honda for the remainder of 2009, starting this weekend in Spain.

Hopkins, who made his test debut for Johan Stigefelt's team earlier this week at Almeria, knows the Valencia circuit well from grand prix racing.

Running as #121, Hopkins completed 21 Friday free practice laps, with his best time 0.973sec slower than pace setter - and former MotoGP rider - Carlos Checa (Ten Kate Honda).

Haslam, who took a podium finish on his Stiggy debut at Phillip Island, claimed twelfth position, 0.239sec in front of Hopkins.

Fellow American WSBK rookie Ben Spies, winner of three of the first four races of the year, was one place behind Hopkins in 17th for Yamaha. Spies last rode at Valencia in late 2007, when he was testing a Suzuki GSV-R.

25-year-old Hopkins will now face first qualifying on Friday afternoon, with grid positions to be decided during Saturday's knockout Superpole session. Both WSBK races take place on Sunday.

Hopkins rode for WCM Yamaha, then Suzuki and Kawasaki during a 500cc/MotoGP career that lasted from 2002-2008.

To follow Hopper's progress throughout his first World Superbike race weekend, visit's WSBK channel.


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