Four-time MotoGP podium finisher John Hopkins, concluded his first day as a World Superbike rider 18th out of the 30 competitors in Valencia first qualifying - but only one second from provisional pole.
Hopkins, who has joined WSBK at round three of the 2009 season after Kawasaki's factory withdraw from grand prix racing, arrived at Valencia with only a brief test to get acquainted with his new Stiggy Honda CBR1000RR.
Nevertheless, Hopper finished his first WSBK track session in 16th - within one second of the top - before dropping two places during the afternoon qualifying session.
The Anglo-American now aims to start changing the set-up to suit his needs as he seeks to close the 1.093sec gap to Aprilia's Max Biaggi ahead of Saturday afternoon's Superpole session.
"It's definitely an experience getting back into the swing of things,” said Hopkins, who had been away from the racetrack since late 2008. “We did a short test earlier this week but didn't really get to spend that much time on a dry track. Unfortunately this afternoon in qualifying we ran into some technical problems that held me back a bit so I couldn't do as many laps as I wanted to do.
“I haven't really changed a thing from Rolfo's set-up but now that we started to push towards the end of the session that's when we ran into the problems. We started to get it right with the set-up towards the end but still need to change some things for tomorrow.
“I'm not pleased to be in 18th position but am happy to only be a second away from the leader. Once we make the changes I am confident we can close the gap to the front group,” Hopkins concluded.
“John has done a great job in his first day of qualifying,” praised team manager Johan Stigefelt. “It is his first time on the bike today where he can set this many laps and ride with the others. It's looking promising and he hasn't even been able to push yet. We have reached a level now from which we can take the next step. We still have to take another second off to find the connection with the front group, but I'm confident we can make that step tomorrow.”
Leon Haslam, who gave Stiggy Honda a podium finish at the Phillip Island season opener, was 14th fastest and suffering similar problems to Hopkins.
"It seems like we are struggling a little with the suspension here and we can't get a good grip with the circuit,” explained Stiggy. “Both riders basically have the same comments and mention the same problem so we'll have to look at the data tonight and see what we can improve. Leon is not too happy with his current position and considering what he can do, we know he will be determined to do better."