After Assen disrupted John Hopkins' career for the second year in succession, the Stiggy Racing team was left looking for a replacement for the man who had only just joined the team. Hopkins' injury - a dislocated hip with a fractured femur - leaves the American out of racing for at least two, and maybe three rounds.
First of these is magnificent Monza, a jewel of a track set in a huge park on the outskirts of Milan. At that legendary track, another American, Jake Zemke, will ride Hopkins' CBR1000RR. Zemke is the reigning AMA Formula Xtreme champion, a class that has now been replaced by the incomprehensible Daytona Sportbike class in the AMA Pro Racing Championship, and is currently riding for Erion Honda's Daytona Sportbike entry. Zemke previously rode a Honda CBR1000RR for American Honda in the AMA Superbike series alongside Miguel Duhamel.
This will be Zemke's second attempt at Monza. Previously, Zemke was scheduled to substitute for Roberto Rolfo aboard the Althea Honda here in 2008, but last-minute paperwork problems with the AMA prevented Zemke from taking part. This weekend, Zemke will be replacing Hopkins - who replaced Rolfo, though over results, not injury - at the Italian track. Hopkins will also be out at Kyalami in two weeks' time, but that event clashes with the next AMA round at Infineon Raceway, or Sears Point as it was known, ruling Zemke out there. Both Hopkins and Zemke share a manager, a contributing factor to Zemke's taking the ride, but like several American racers, Zemke has indicated an interest in joining the World Superbike paddock permanently.
The problem for Zemke, as for all Americans, will be money: In the World Superbike paddock, it is customary to pay for your ride by bringing in sponsorship, unless you are one of a handful of the very top riders who teams and factories are keen to pay. Unless Zemke can completely blow away the opposition, he is unlikely to be made a similar offer, and with a host of Italian riders and Italian teams turning up at Monza, that is a very tall order indeed.