Rizla Suzuki team manager Paul Denning has hinted that former MotoGP star John Hopkins
could return to the GSV-R in 2011.
Hopper raced in MotoGP with Suzuki from 2003 to 2007, his results steadily improving to a peak of four podiums and fourth overall in the '07 world championship.
A high-profile switch to Kawasaki lasted just one season before the factory's withdraw and coincided with the start of a punishing run of injuries, which continued when Hopkins switched to World Superbikes in 2009 and AMA SBK in 2010.
But Hopkins rebuilt his fitness, and form, in AMA late last year - prompting Denning to sign the recharged 27-year-old for his Crescent Suzuki BSB team.
The deal, which Denning and Hopkins hope will help re-launch the American's international career, also includes a wild-card ride in the Donington Park WSBK round.
“The current plan, just subject to a couple of things happening, is to definitely run John in the European World Superbike race at the end of March, before the BSB season starts,” Denning told Crash.net
at this week's Sepang test.
And what about a ride on the Suzuki MotoGP bike?
“Watch this space…” smiled Denning.
Rizla Suzuki has scaled down to one MotoGP bike, for Alvaro Bautista, in 2011, meaning the logistics of - for example - a wild-card ride for Hopkins would be more easily overcome.
One thing is certain, Denning (and Crescent) still hold Hopkins in very high regard and have proud memories of what they achieved together during 2007.
Suzuki's best year of the four-stroke era was highlighted by a wet race win for team-mate Chris Vermeulen, but Hopkins finished higher in the standings and - had it not been for the extraordinary Casey Stoner/Ducati combination - Denning believes Hopkins would also have been victorious.
“From 17-years-old John was on the grand prix scene and went through a lot of pain and a lot of effort to get to the top level,” said Denning. “He delivered incredibly well for us in 2007. Very, very strong. If it hadn't been for a certain Mr Stoner absolutely dusting everybody John would have won a race.