John Hopkins admits he will probably skip the opening round of the 2012 World Superbike Championship after fracturing his hand in an accident during pre-season testing at Phillip Island.
The ex-MotoGP rider, who is embarking on his first full season of WSBK racing in 2012, high-sided during the early stages of the test, falling heavily on the same hand that recently had a finger amputated.
Fracturing the bone beneath what remains of the finger, Hopkins will now venture back to the United States to meet with his hand surgeon before deciding on whether to return to Australia for the opening round of the season in less than two weeks' time.
However, the man himself admits it is unlikely he will be lining up on the starting grid with Crescent Fixi Suzuki, instead opting to use the six weeks between now and the second round at Imola to make a full recovery.
"This feels so devastating because I was feeling really comfortable on the bike right from the start. I was running the 2011-spec bike with just small modifications to the engine and the new Yoshimura exhaust and hadn't yet got on the full 2012 bike. But I felt that the GSX-R had already been improved in the areas it needed to be.
"The track conditions were not the best and we started the day a bit late because there were some damp patches around from the overnight rain. Having said that, it wasn't the damp that caused the crash. I was on a used tyre and probably on the last lap before pulling in. I exited turn one and might have been just a little bit too hot for the condition of the tyre going into turn two, when suddenly the rear came round even before I got on the brakes. I was spat off and unfortunately came down on my right hand - the same one that is missing a bit of finger. The X-rays show that I have fractured a bone in the base of the hand near what's left of my fourth finger.
"I will fly home tomorrow and see my hand surgeon, Doctor Chao, and we'll decide what has to be done. I would say that my chances of racing at Phillip Island next week are very slim, but the important thing is to get the hand sorted correctly and be completely right before I race. It may be better to miss Phillip Island and then use the six weeks or so before Imola to get back to 100% - we'll see. I want to say thanks to the Crescent Fixi team for all its efforts and sorry to Suzuki and all the team's sponsors - we'll be back and fighting for the podium soon.”
A major blow for Crescent Fixi Suzuki, which is stepping up to the world stage after many successful seasons at British Superbike level, team manager Jack Valentine did not reveal whether he would seek a replacement to join Leon Camier.
"It is a bit more than unfortunate what happened to John today. We had a late start because of the overnight rain and a bit of sea mist this morning, but everything was going fine. John looked good on the bike. His lap times were right up there with the others and there were no problems with his finger. He was unlucky to high-side, but more unlucky to come down on his right hand. We'll wait to see how he gets on in the USA tomorrow and although there is a possibility that he might race, I think we'd all rather that he got his injury sorted out properly and then return when he's full and ready.
"The positives are that both riders have already gelled really well with the bike. Hopper looked good right from the start and Leon got comfortable straight away. Leon ended the day really happy with the bike and he'll carry on the work we've got to do and keep improving tomorrow."
Hopkins has been beset by injuries throughout his career and is only now overcoming the finger injury that has hampered his progress since sustaining it in August.