Hopkins Extends BSB lead with two races to go
Samung Crescent Racing's John Hopkins extended his lead in the 2011 British Superbikes Championship after finishing third in the first race of the final round today, at the Brands Hatch GP circuit. He now leads the championship by 11 points with just two more races to run. Hopkins' team-mate Jon Kirkham finished in eighth place and maintains his lead in the Riders' Cup.
Hopkins rode a steady race today electing to not fight for the win – against riders who will struggle to overcome his points advantage – and instead focused on his battle with Tommy Hill, his nearest rival. Hill attacked Hopkins on the final lap and took a momentary lead but Hopkins was able to counter attack and hold the advantage to the finish, netting a further three points advantage over Hill.
Jon Kirkham continues to improve his pace, and was one of the few riders to lap in the 1:25-minute bracket today. With a good start Kirkham should be able to secure the top-five finishes he seeks tomorrow.
Earlier today both had ridden strong in qualifying, with Hopkins securing third fastest for a front row starting position and Kirkham seventh fastest for a second row.
John Hopkins: "We've had a good day today. We've got great lap and race speeds so we can race for wins. But today Michael Laverty and Josh Brookes were riding hard, they both had nothing to lose and everything to gain, while for my part I didn't need to ride with them or beat them to win this championship, so I elected to stay clear and ride safe. Maybe too safe, as that tactic did allow Tommy Hill to close on me and it made for an exciting last lap, but I was able to deal with his attack and lead him home.
"I still can't rest easy, 11 points isn't enough to make us feel secure and the strategy for tomorrow is still race to win. I just need to ride the way I have all season and we'll get the job done."
Jon Kirkham: "I'm really pleased to be on the pace, to do the lap times. Dipping into the 1:25s I'm again matching the front runners. Now it's now just a case of being stronger in the first third of the race, both in defence and attack. For my part I want two top-fives tomorrow, I want to be at the front – and if my doing so helps Hopper's cause then so much the better. Everything is good to go."
Jack Valentine, team manager: "Weekends like this are never easy, the stakes are that high. It was no surprise Hopper had a small dose of nerves today, but if that's how he rides when he's being cautious then we should be good for tomorrow. He's reflected on his performance today and he's acknowledged he wasn't his usual self and he's judged that a bit of a mistake. Lesson learned, he'll be back tomorrow the attacking, calculating rider we've come to know. Everything is ready. The bike is great, nothing wanting there. The team's ready. And Hopper's ready.
"JK deserves special mention again. His result – eighth – doesn't look so special but he's again showing he can do the lap times, he's a definite top-five on that basis. He's not doing anything stupid, he's very comfortable. Hopefully tomorrow he'll get the starts and be that little bit more assertive – as he now has every right to be – and we'll see two great results from him to close what on balance has been a brilliant year. It's a big leap stepping into a lead team but JK's come through in style.
"So it's been a good day today, we've done some hard work and I think we've felt – and withstood – the pressure. We head into tomorrow with a single purpose."
MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship