Hopkins upsets rivals for wild-card pole
30 July 2011
Wild-card John Hopkins will start the ninth round of the 2011 World Superbike Championship at Silverstone from pole position, the Samsung Crescent Suzuki rider stunning the opposition with a record-breaking Superpole performance.
The former MotoGP rider, who started six WSBK races for Stiggy Honda in 2009, has shown impressive form in his one-off WSBK outing so far this weekend, topping the timesheets in FP1 and also Q2.
Even so, Hopkins still had a task to upset the regulars during the definitive Superpole session, the American moving through the knockout phases fairly quietly.
However, the American struck when it mattered in SP3, powering around the Silverstone circuit – new to him this weekend – in a time of 2mins 04.041secs, five hundredths beneath Cal Crutchlow's benchmark time from 2010.
An outstanding performance for the wild-card rider, it marks his first world championship pole position since he started up front for the MotoGP Assen TT in 2006 and is Suzuki's first WSBK Superpole since Phillip Island 2010.
It is also the first wild-card pole position since Tommy Hill started up front at Silverstone in 2006.
Hopkins still had some competition for pole position though, with just 27 thousandths of a second making the difference between himself and second place Eugene Laverty.
The Irishman was actually the first to break the lap record, only for Hopkins to come through seconds later and snatch that title away from him. Even so, Laverty's second place marks his fifth front row start of the year.
In third place, Leon Camier flew the flag for the British riders in what was an otherwise difficult session for the local favourites. The Aprilia rider enjoyed his most competitive qualifying of the year as he eased into the shootout before grabbing third place, three tenths off the front.
It was enough to keep championship leader Carlos Checa at bay, the Spaniard unable to challenge in SP3 having set the pace in SP2.
Even so, as a measure of the pace up front, more than a second splits Checa in fourth to Sylvain Guintoli in fifth, the Frenchman nonetheless going well to stave off Marco Melandri in sixth and Michel Fabrizio in seventh.
Noriyuki Haga might have fancied his chances of the front row after showing good pace in SP1 and SP2, but a crash at Brooklands would consign him to eighth position.
Haga wasn't the only Aprilia rider to hit the deck during Superpole, with title challenger Max Biaggi enduring an untypically difficult afternoon. Having struggled in the sessions preceding Superpole, Biaggi would also crash at Brooklands early on in SP1.
Though he got back on circuit to qualify for SP2, he wouldn't go any higher than 11th, the first time Biaggi has qualified outside the top ten since Assen 2010.
He starts behind Leon Haslam and Ayrton Badovini, the BMW riders just missing out on a top eight berth, while Mark Aitchison produced another stellar Superpole performance to grab 12th position and top Kawasaki status.
Aitchison's cause was aided by the absence of Tom Sykes, who crashed heavily during FP2 and was ruled out of Superpole. Reportedly suffering concussion, it hasn't been confirmed whether he will skip the races, for which he would start 16th behind Jakub Smrz, James Toseland and Maxime Berger, the latter two riders unable to carry their practice pace into Superpole.