John Hopkins has proved he should be back in MotoGP full time and Suzuki has turned the GSV-R into a user-friendly motorcycle.
That was the verdict of Rizla Suzuki team manager Paul Denning after Hopkins qualified just over half-a-second from sixth placed Andréa Dovizioso, during his first MotoGP qualifying session since 2008 at Jerez on Saturday.
Hopkins, a Suzuki MotoGP rider from 2003-2007, when he moved to Kawasaki, has been drafted back into the team in place of the injured Alvaro Bautista.
Prior to Friday practice Hopkins had only completed some brief filming laps on the 2011 version of the GSV-R, but he has improved with each and every session and was only 1.5sec behind pole man Casey Stoner in qualifying.
With MotoGP so close, Hopkins will still start back in 14th, but he beat three full-time riders.
“These two days have demonstrated two things. One that John Hopkins still deserves to be riding at the top level of the sport, and secondly, that Suzuki has done a great job to develop the GSV-R into a package that - without any adjustments at all - has allowed John to qualify the bike so competitively,” said Denning.
“Over two years away from riding a MotoGP machine - and the amount of braking force and mechanical grip that they have compared to production bikes – means that John's timing is inevitably a bit off and also that whilst he's very fit, there is a difference between normal fitness and MotoGP racing fitness.
“The 27-laps tomorrow will be tough, but irrespective of what happens in the race itself, John has done a fantastic job so far and we couldn't have wished for a better stand-in for Alvaro.”
Hopkins has signed to ride for Denning's Crescent Suzuki team in BSB this year and hadn't dreamed he'd be back in MotoGP so soon.
Indeed, the American - who finished fourth in the 2007 world championship - admitted he was a little over-excited during qualifying, but now has his sights set on a dream top ten in the race.