John Hopkins made it five podiums from his last six races after two gritty performances today at the fourth round of the 2011 British Superbikes Championship at Thruxton in Hampshire. The Samsung Crescent Racing rider fought vision problems caused by wet weather to place 4-3 in today's races.
Hopkins' team-mate, Jon Kirkham, was forced out of race one with set-up problems but came back strong in race two, climbing from a P25 start position to place a worthy ninth.
John Hopkins: "Today reminded us we're racing in England, it was about time we had a wet race! I can't say I welcomed it because after getting to grips with the circuit in last practice and qualifying I was looking forward to some real race battles.
"My bike was excellent in both races, but I struggled with vision – the rain was getting on the inside of the visor. In race one I elected to take it steady as I'd not ridden this c ircuit in the wet, but by the end I was feeling stronger and despite my visor I was able to make back some positions to finish fourth. In race two I was again struggling to see, and this time the spray was truly awful, but my bike was never less than excellent and so it helped me to make the push at the end for the podium finish."
Jon Kirkham: "I had a serious set-up problem in race one that meant I had very little rear grip. I carried on for as long as I could but once any chance of championship points had gone I stopped – it was too dangerous.
"Race two was much better, but with having to start from 25th and with it being so wet it was a real struggle to pass. On lap one I was motoring down the back straight at about 190mph when I ran off the track – the spray was that heavy I couldn't see where the track ended and the grass began!
"I know I have the speed and my race craft is good, so while I dropped out of the top six today I'm confident I can regain those places."
Jack Valentine, team manager: "Hopper was brilliant again today, there was a lot for him to contend with: learning Thruxton in the wet, major issues with his visor and a bunch of British lads who just love these conditions. But again he kept his head. He actually led quite a few laps, but he was calm when he was overtaken, learned what he could from following and then applied this by the race end.
"JK had a real tough time. There was a lot of commotion before the start of the first race and in all the hustle and bustle he found himself on the start with the wrong rear set-up for the conditions. His comeback in race two was another great performance, to pass 16 people in such awful conditions was incredible. A great bit of damage limitation.
"So, not our best weekend. But both riders, and the team, have learnt from the experience . Hopper has strengthened his grip on the second position in the points tables and really not lost that many to the leader. JK's performing consistently well as a rider, we just need to tidy up on some of the 'bad luck' and he'll right in the thick of the fight."
MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship
Round Four, Thruxton
Race one result:
1.Michael Laverty (Swan Yamaha)
2.Michael Rutter (Rapid Solicitors Bathams Ducati) +1.281s
3. Shane Byrne (HM Plant Honda) +1.333
4.John Hopkins (Samsung Crescent Racing) +1.923s
5.Peter Hickman (Tyco Honda) +2.473s
6.Dan Linfoot (Sorrymate.com Honda) +3.097s
7.Alex Lowes (MSS Colchester Kawasaki) +8.863s
8.Chris Walker (Pr1mo Racing Kawasaki) +10.948s
9. Josh Brookes (Relentles Suzuki by TAS) +14.718s
10.Ryuichi Kiyonari (HM Plant Honda) +17.132s
DNF. Jon Kirkham (Samsung Crescent Racing)
Race two result:
1.Shane Byrne (HM Plant Honda)
2.Peter Hickman (Tyco Honda) +10.618s
3.John Hopkins (Samsung Crescent Racing) +15.527s
4.Tommy Hill (Swan Yamaha) +16.980s
5.Dan Linfoot (Sorrymate.com Honda) +17.128s
6.Josh Brookes (Relentless Suzuki) +17.983s
7.Michael Laverty (Swan Yamaha) +22.967s
8.Chris Walker (Pr1mo Racing Kawasaki) +26.881s
9.Jon Kirkham (Samsung Crescent Racing) +32.415s
10.Martin Jessopp (Rapid Solicitors-Bathams Ducati) +34.864s
MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship standings after Thruxton:
1.Shane Byrne (HM Plant Honda) 136
2.John Hopkins (Samsung Crescent Racing) 121
3.Stuart Easton (MSS Colchester Kawasaki) 89
4.Tommy Hill (Swan Yamaha) 70
5.Michael Laverty (Swan Yamaha) 69
6.Peter Hickman (Tyco Honda) 68
9. Jon Kirkham (Samsung Crescent Racing) 61