Next stop Knockhill
Samsung Crescent Racing head to the Knockhill circuit in Fifeshire on June 17-19 for the fifth round of the 2011 British Superbike Championship. Riders John Hopkins and Jon Kirkham – who lie second and ninth places in the championship, respectively – completed a successful test at the Scottish track earlier this week and report excellent progress in their pre-event preparations.
For Hopkins it was a first look at the circuit. In the words of Jack Valentine (team manager) 'he took to it like a duck to water' – not a bad analogy given the propensity for rain at the circuit. For Kirkham it was also a positive test, allowing him again to recalibrate to the speed of the superbike over the superstock machines he's ridden before.
John Hopkins: "What a circuit! For a lap that's under 50-seconds it really packs everything in: fast corners, tight corners, hard braking, ups and downs! I really like it. B etter still, my Samsung Crescent bike also likes it, we tried two quite different settings during our testing and it lapped well on both.
"That's mission one accomplished. Now for the race weekend. For me it's going to be about consolidating my position and I guess the best way to do that will be by notching up more podium credits. And on the lap times we did during our test we think that should be possible.
"I have to say I'm really enjoying this championship. The tracks have been so varied, so challenging – that alone has been a great experience. But the level of interest: the number of fans, the media focus, has really impressed me. It feels like I'm in a good place. After some tough years, the hard work of the last 18 months are paying off; Paul Denning's faith in me is paying off for the team; and all this is stimulating interest in my career going forwards, maybe even making way for a return to MotoGP. That's cool. But I'm a firm be liever in one step at a time. I'm loving BSB, so for me this is where I want to be for the rest of this season, I'm committed to this great team and this great championship."
Jon Kirkham: "It was great to get this test in. Doing something like 50 laps has really helped me get a grip on the superbike around Knockhill. At the beginning I was riding the bike like my old superstock, but its important to use all that extra power – once I did that I dropped a whole lot of time. Great progress.
"I'm looking forward to the event now. It's hard to believe I'm where I am in the championship: I've had a win, I've been awarded fastest laps, so I really should be top six. So that's the goal for this weekend. Go for top-five in each race and even podiums – why not!? I'm hoping my DNFs are behind me now, it's time to make sure I'm well secured in the Title Fighters category."
Jack Valentine, tea m manager: "We're really keen to get back to Knockhill! We're having a great championship this season – as we have the last two years to be fair – but Hopper's performance at our Knockhill test has really inspired the team. To go as fast as he did within a matter of laps – and not even using the kerbs – suggest to us we're on for another good weekend.
"Hopper's really creating a buzz right now; BSB is never an easy ride yet he's showing his class. He's certainly brought something new to the party. It's no surprise then that the MotoGP teams should be knocking on his door again. That's flattering, but we're delighted that Hopper sees BSB in 2011 as his first duty. And he makes a good point – racing is about each and every weekend, we've got Knockhill to conquer first, then another seven rounds after that. The future can wait!
"For JK there's still work to do. I really like this lad's style, he plays the long game, building his speed on sound foundations rather than through erratic gambles. He's had a mix of amazing good fortune (Croft, for his maiden BSB win) and bad luck (victim of a crash immediately after that win). But he works diligently on.
"At our Knockhill test he was again putting in the laps, building on his base data. He's only just outside the top six in the championship right now but I can see him back in there very soon. I'll be very surprised if he's not one of the Title Fighters by the end of the year.
"So we're looking forward to Knockhill, we've got work to do and the tools to do it!"