Hopkins romps to Oulton Park pole position
Samsung Crescent Racing's John Hopkins topped the British Superbikes qualifying table at Oulton Park today, taking a sensational pole position in the very last seconds of the session. Hopkins has in fact dominated the run up to tomorrow's seventh round of the 2011 British Superbikes championship, taking fastest lap in every practice and qualifying.
Hopkins' team-mate Jon Kirkham hasn't had such a good run, suffering a 140mph crash in second practice, and so has been fighting to regain position since then. Kirkham qualified in P13 (fourth row) but remains confident of a top-ten performance tomorrow.
John Hopkins: "We're really, really happy! This place is something special to me. I loved it the last time here – taking my first win – and coming into this weekend I knew we'd be faster again. Even in the wet we've had the situation covered; the Samsung Crescent Racing GSX-R is everything I want right now.
"Qualifying wasn't easy, though. I was pushed all the way in that last session, but there was no way I wasn't going to take pole after sitting on top of the table all weekend. I had to take some time out, figure where I could go faster. I got that in my mind and then just pulled the pin. I was on an old tyre, sliding everywhere, popping out of the seat a few times and in that last corner I couldn't have been anymore on the limit than I was – but it did the trick. And all of this for no points! Tomorrow's when it counts, so I'll just look to keep the momentum up. Yeah, I'm really looking forward to tomorrow – rain or shine!"
Jon Kirkham: "This has been a tough build up for me. We were experimenting with set-up when I crashed at Island Bend early in Free Practice 2. That's a very fast corner and so the bike was badly damaged, prematurely stopping our progress on set-up. And we were further compromised by a wet FP3 this morning. Then in qualifying I had a rear brake problem. You really rely on the rear brake around here on a superbike as the bike wheelies everywhere and if you can't control it the way you'd like then it costs tenths of a second every time.
"Even with those set-backs I only just missed out on Q3. With the brake sorted we should cut into my times tomorrow. I'm confident that, like the last time we were here, I'll race much better than I've qualified."
Jack Valentine, team manager: "We're definitely one-up one-down at the moment. Hopper couldn't have had a better run-up to tomorrow, he's been magnificent. In that final qualifying he left it until his last lap to steal pole – he certainly knows how to crush his opposition's hopes!
"JK's had another torrid pre-race weekend, though. High speed crashes are never good for a rider's confidence. And th en to have the setback of a wet final practice really didn't help. Despite all that he was riding well in qualifying – even then fighting brake issues – and was in P9 right up to the final seconds of Q2. He's intelligent enough to see through the bad and he knows he and his bike will come out faster tomorrow, he's remained confident. I think we'll see two strong performances from him tomorrow.
"So we can expect Hopper to be chasing two wins tomorrow, he's on top form. And I think we can expect to see a strong fightback from JK, he hasn't lost sight of his goal: top six."
MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship