John Hopkins and the Samsung Crescent Racing Team demonstrated why they are worthy to mix it up with the very best Superbike riders in the world today, as Hopkins bagged impressive fifth and seventh place finishes in round nine of the World SBK Championship at Silverstone Circuit in Northamptonshire.
Following a hugely impressive win in Superpole yesterday, setting a new lap record in the process, the Anglo-American rider started both of today's races from pole position, going into race one full of fight and dicing for the lead in the early stages. But with a riding style that dictates use of the rear brake, disaster struck mid-way through race one for Hopkins when his rear brake pad delaminated, effectively ending hopes of a podium finish, but still finishing the race in an impressive fifth place.
With the brake pad issues rectified for race two, once again Hopkins was at the sharp-end of the action, battling hard with WSBK title contenders Melandri, Biaggi and Laverty. But with an obvious defeceit in straight-line speed compared to the full-factory Superbikes, Hopkins had to hang the Samsung Crescent Suzuki GSX-R1000 out to stay in the mix, eventually costing him rear tyre grip in the closing stages of the race, dropping back to sixth on the last lap before being narrowly beaten across the line by Sylvain Guintoli to take seventh at the flag.
John Hopkins: "Boy that was a lot of fun. The first race was a bit of a disappointment with the rear brake pad issues, but I managed to alter my corner entry and keep my focus to bag that fifth place. Race two felt better, but to keep with those factory bikes you really need to make up time on the brakes and on the gas out of the turns. I knew that would kill my tyre, so it was no surprise in the closing stages of race two when we started loosing the times. Overall, I'm really pumped about this weekend. It's been huge fun and we've showed the world what the Samsung Crescent Suzuki team are really capable of. I've bagged my first ever World SBK pole position, mixed it up at the sharp end and enjoyed the racing immensely. A huge thanks to the whole team."
For teammate Jon Kirkham, a pair of finishes in the points was a positive step forward after struggling in qualifying yesterday. Finishing race one in 14th and going on to set faster times in race two, some 15 seconds faster over race distance, to come home in 15th signified solid progress, when other British Championship riders crashed out of contention.
Jon Kirkham: "Not quite what I hoped for this weekend, but a pair of points finishes in World SBK is definitely something to be pleased with and you still can't beat the feeling of dicing with your heroes like Troy Corser. Crucially we were a day behind really. After my struggles in practice and qualifying and an attempt to alter my riding style a little after seeing Hopper's times, I just reverted to my old self today and started to go much better. Anyway, the bonus to take away from this is that we've now got a lot of data for the Silverstone BSB round and I can go to Brands Hatch next weekend with plenty of confidence."
Team manager Jack Valentine: "What a weekend. First we're fastest in practice, then on pole position and then dicing for the lead, before rounding the weekend off with two great results and both riders in the points. This was always going to be a challenge, but thanks to the support from all of our sponsors, including Samsung and Fixi we were able to show the world what we're capable of and leave Silverstone with our heads held high.
"Hopper rode two great races, JK demonstrated his ability to bounce back despite set-backs and crucially, we leave here with a great deal of data for the BSB round later in the year. Now we head to Brands Hatch this weekend coming full of confidence. A great team effort and a huge thanks to the entire team."
1 Carlos Checa 38m06.477s
2 Eugene Laverty +3.304s
3 Marco Melandri +4.782s
4 Leon Haslam +7.116s
5 John Hopkins Suzuki +11.057s
6 Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Ducati +21.899s
14 Jon Kirkham Suzuki +57.310s
1 Carlos Checa 38m03.361s
2 Eugene Laverty +2.274s
3 Marco Melandri +3.675s
4 Max Biaggi +3.960s
5 Leon Camier +4.405s
6 Sylvain Guintoli +10.958s
15 Jon Kirkham Suzuki +42.579s