John Hopkins has set his sights on overhauling Stiggy Racing team-mate Leon Haslam after a solid debut World Superbike performance at Valencia, Spain.
The American provided one of the weekend's biggest draws following his confirmation to Johan Stigefelt's team, but while the ex-MotoGP rider was confident of a strong result before the weekend, he admits his time away from riding any race bike played its part in keeping him rooted in the mid-field.
Nonetheless, despite his inexperience on the Honda CBR1000RR, Hopkins says he was pleased with his performance, particularly in the second race when an excellent start saw him rise as high as seventh, from 16th on the grid.
Although he dropped back to tenth position in the ensuing laps, Hopkins was still heading for a top ten finish when a fuel consumption problem forced him to slow down and concede positions to those behind.
Eventually crossing the line in 12th position, Hopkins nonetheless described the weekend as a 'great experience'.
"It definitely was a challenging first round after not riding a bike and dragging a knee since November, but to then move straight in and do two races on one day was a great experience,” Hopkins, who also finished 11th in the first race, said. “I want to say thanks to Stiggy for giving me this ride. We experienced a technical problem with our fuel consumption but it is something we need to improve.
“My start was really good, getting aggressive on my first start and come through in seventh on the first lap was good, but then I lost some ground. Leon pulled away from me and from there it was just a lonely race. With three laps to go I experienced the fuel problems and the riders all came past me.”
Already scoring more points than his Stiggy successor Roberto Rolfo, Hopkins is now using team-mate Haslam, who finished fifth in both races, as a benchmark for the upcoming events.
“This weekend was supposed to be a learning curve and I proved that I can do the lap times,” he added. “We'll have to work on the setup and get it working right. Leon is definitely setting the standards right now and I will have to try and chase him down."
Hopkins best race lap of 1min 35.889secs was the 11th quickest of the second race, ahead of Tom Sykes, Shane Byrne and Jonathan Rea, while he was only two tenths slower than Haslam.