As he gets set to roll back the years at Jerez, MotoGP returnee John Hopkins has admitted he is 'under no illusions' that he is likely in for a challenging weekend indeed with Rizla Suzuki, but he has vowed to repay the team's confidence in him with 'a good performance' in the Spanish Grand Prix.
Hopkins last competed in MotoGP in 2008, and last raced for Rizla Suzki back in 2007, claiming a podium finish in that year's Valencia finale to seal fourth spot in the riders' standings, comfortably his finest championship placing from seven campaigns in the premier class.
Now happily fully recovered from a wrist injury that had threatened to end his career last season, the American is taking time out from his preparations for his British Superbike Championship bow with Samsung Crescent Racing in 2011 to stand in for Álvaro Bautista, who suffered an injury of his own in the curtain-raising MotoGP outing in Qatar just over a week ago.
A high-speed accident during the third free practice session at Losail left the Spaniard with a broken left femur, and complications have since kept him in hospital and potentially facing further surgery [see separate story – click here
]. Bautista is expected to be at Jerez to follow the race with his team, and is plotting a competitive comeback as soon as possible.
In the meantime, it is Californian legend 'Hopper' who will take his place, and as he endeavours to rebuild his form sufficiently to engineer a full-time return to the world stage in the not-too-distant future, the 27-year-old is bidding to do Bautista justice around a circuit whose undulating layout, hard-braking corners and endless camber changes invariably lend themselves to an exciting spectacle.
“I was shocked by what happened to Álvaro, especially after such a good winter testing, and I really wish him a speedy and full recovery,” remarked Hopkins. “I wanted the opportunity to get back on a MotoGP bike, but not under these circumstances.
“I'm under no illusions that this will be a tough weekend for me, as I've not been on a GP machine for a couple of years or ridden on the new control tyres – except for the filming I did in Qatar a couple of weeks ago – so I realise this will be a step-up from what I have been riding recently. The bikes have moved on in the last three years; when I rode the GSV-R at Losail it seemed so familiar and I immediately had a good feeling, but that was at filming pace, so it's going to be a lot different at race pace!
“I know the Jerez track well, though, so it's not like I need to learn a new circuit, and I also know the team well so that will help a lot. I will certainly be trying as hard as I can to get a good result and to make sure I don't disappoint anybody, myself included. I want to say a big 'thank you' to Suzuki and Rizla for giving me this opportunity, and I intend to pay back their faith with a good performance on my return to MotoGP.”