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his success path was chosen before that. in fact, i wouldnt doubt if his name was an automatic for getting picked in the 250 race you missed out on. hopper was on the radar from a very early age.
people forget just how young he was when he started his pro career. they moved him along very fast, maybe too fast.
and on the 990's, he was becoming a real threat. so was nakano on the kawasaki for that matter. the switch to 800cc derailed many a promising careers imo.
2006 was the best racing i have ever seen. many different winners, many different championship favorites, all the oem's competitive, and even satellite teams on a level playing field with the factories.