John Hopkins thinks he is capable of challenging at the front of the World Superbike field when he makes his debut for Stiggy Racing at Valencia, the ex-MotoGP rider adding that he will be targeting race wins this year.
Having been left without a ride when Kawasaki withdrew from MotoGP in January - before being frozen out of any potential deal with the resurrected Hayate team -, it was announced yesterday that the American will now make the high-profile leap from the premier motorcycle series to the burgeoning production class.
Arriving at the privateer Stiggy team with seven seasons of MotoGP experience under his belt, including a fourth place finish overall in 2007, Hopkins is eager to show he hasn't joined World Superbikes to simply make up the numbers.
Indeed, having seen new team-mate Leon Haslam claim a podium on their Superbike debut in Australia, Hopkins is confident he can be a rival to current frontrunners Ben Spies and Noriyuki Haga.
"Right from the start, in the first race, Leon showed that the bike could be put on the podium,” he said. “The Stiggy Racing Honda has already proved that it is competitive and I would just like to adapt to it as quickly as possible. I want to be able to run at the front right from the get-go.
“So far this season, Ben Spies and Nori Haga have shown their abilities to run at the front and their championship intentions. I believe the bike, the team and myself have every capability of running at the front and dicing with the leaders. Starting from the third race in, we will be at an obvious disadvantage in the points, but I am just going to put my head down and work my way to the front.
“My goal is to accumulate as many wins and podiums as possible. I am looking forward to the experience and riding all the new tracks. I would like to thank my sponsors, Monster, Alpinestars, and Arai, for standing by me this season, and I would like to thank Stiggy Racing Honda for giving me the opportunity to go racing in such a competitive series!"
Having seen the MotoGP grid steadily dwindle over the years, Hopkins is excited by the prospect of racing in fields of around 30 riders, adding that World Superbikes seems to promote closer racing.
“I am really excited to get back out on the track and have nothing but good expectations. I have been watching SBK over the past few years and the series is always very exciting. Each year, it keeps growing and growing and drawing more and more attention.
“The racing seems a lot tighter than in MotoGP. The machines seem more evenly matched so, all and all, I am just really excited to get started."
Hopkins, who will bring valuable Monster backing to the team too, will be joined in the team by new crew chief Kor Veldmean, who has worked with Chris Vermeulen, James Toseland and Carlos Checa in the past.