John Hopkins will be a World Championship rider in 2012. That much he is certain of.
The 28-year-old, looking to complete a stunning career revival by winning the British Superbike title this weekend at Brands Hatch, has made no secret of his desire to return to MotoGP next season.
Hopkins was a full-time grand prix rider from 2002-2008 - starting at Red Bull Yamaha and finishing with a year at Kawasaki. In-between, Hopkins rode for the factory Suzuki squad, with whom he took four podiums and fourth in the 2007 world championship.
Injuries at Kawasaki, which then withdrew from MotoGP at the end of 2008, marked the start of a downward spiral that Hopkins feared he might not overcome.
But MotoGP team manager Paul Denning still believed in Hopkins, and an agreement was reached for the Californian to race for Denning's Samsung Crescent Suzuki BSB team in 2011.
"I took the best option to jump-start my career," said Hopkins, during an exclusive interview with Crash.net
. "It was like coming home to a second family."
A rejuvenated Hopkins soon repaid Denning's faith, taking his first BSB win in round two and he leads the championship by eight points heading into the Brands Hatch decider.
"It's been a huge learning curve," said Hopkins. "The tracks, the competition... I've done MotoGP, AMA and some World Superbike races, but I've never had fiercer competition while racing than in BSB.
"I knew the [Showdown] points' system would favour me because my main aim was to stay in the top six and learn the new tracks, but we didn't expect to win so early and we've stayed where we wanted to be."
Regardless of the championship outcome, Hopper's achievements in BSB, WSBK (on pole as a wild-card at Silverstone) and as a MotoGP stand-in for Rizla Suzuki this season mean he is on the wanted list of several teams for a 2012 grand prix ride.
"My goal is to get back to MotoGP. My mind is set so that anything else is just a stepping stone to MotoGP," said Hopkins.