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Hopkins on front row for BSB round two

John Hopkins has put his Samsung Crescent Racing GSX-R on the front row for round two of the 2011 British Superbikes Championship. Despite this being Hopkins' debut at the very technical and challenging Oulton Park circuit, he was able to post third-fastest time in the final qualifying session today, barely 0.6-sec behind that of the pole sitter.

Jon Kirkham had been the faster of the Samsung Crescent Racing team-mates leading up to the final free practice earlier today, but a heavy crash early in that session meant a hurried rebuild of his damaged bike before qualifying. With bike and rider again fighting-fit, Kirkham posted his personal best lap time of the weekend in Q1 – well inside the top-10. However, a small change to his bike and a sudden change in the wind conditions for Q2 saw Kirkham's pace slow and with no time to make amends he missed the cut for the final qualifier. Kirkham will start from the fourth row start tomorrow.
John Hopkins: "We've been working steadily this weekend, building up knowledge and pace. There's no question this is a tough track to learn and while you can get up to a reasonable pace quite quickly, the last one-and-a-half seconds is trickier – you start to run into little problems. So I finished yesterday not that high up. But I sat down with my crew and I had a good think on the racing lines overnight and that made a difference, we made a big step-up this morning.

"When it came to qualifying this afternoon the mechanics had improved the set-up again and everything came together, so I was able to push really hard right to the end – and get that front row position. So I'm really happy, I'm in a good position to build on that fifth place from Brands Hatch. There's even a chance I can stick it on the podium!"

Jon Kirkham: "I'm gutted, the crew worked wonders to have my bike ready for qualifying and it went well for Q1. Then I elected to make a small change for Q2 that I thought would help. But it made the bike worse and with higher wind speeds I was struggling to feel comfortable on the bike. I could have come in and changed it, but I thought if I persisted it might come good. I was only two-tenths slower than in Q1, but with the others all going a little faster that was enough to drop me out of the final qualifier.

"So I don't have the best starting position for tomorrow, but I know I have top-ten lap speed, maybe even top-five, so there's a lot of potential to improve on my starting position – given a fair bit of hard work!"

Jack Valentine, team manager: "I'm very pleased with Hopper's attitude to the job this weekend. He took his time learning the circuit and getting a good feel for his bike. And then he fired in the fast lap right on cue. A professional job all round. He has a ve ry real opportunity to make the podium tomorrow, so we're looking forward to that.

"For JK, his was a positive build-up, too. The crash wasn't a big issue. Q1 went very well – sixth quickest – then we tried to improve his set-up for Q2, to get him a little more grip, but instead of gaining a couple of tenths, we lost a couple. The positive from the situation is that he and the bike are 100%. We'll settle him in with a good warm-up tomorrow and I don't doubt – given the lap times he's doing – that he'll be able to place well inside the top-ten tomorrow.

"We're not exactly where we'd want to be, but we've picked up our first front row of the season and both riders have been inside the top-five in individual sessions this weekend. It's coming together. We can rightfully expect some good results tomorrow."

MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship
Round Two, Oulton Park
Qualifying result:

Tommy Hill (Swan Yamaha) 1m:35.175s
Michael Laverty (Swan Yamaha) +0.291s
John Hopkins (Samsung Crescent Racing) +0.628s
Loris Baz (Motorpoint Yamaha) +0.663s
Josh Brookes (Relentless Suzuki) +0.805s
Stuart Easton (MSS Colchester Kawasaki) +0.956s
Shane Byrne (HM Plant Honda) +1.211s
James Westmoreland (Motorpoint Yamaha) +1.213S
Ryuichi Kiyonari (HM Plant Honda) +1.374s
Michael Rutter (Rapid Solicitors-Bathams Ducati) +1.395s

16. Jon Kirkham (Samsung Crescent Racing) 1m:36.600s