Normally, the month of January is a quiet time in the world of MotoGP and motorcycle racing. Last year, that quiet was ruptured by the fallout from Kawasaki's decision to withdraw from MotoGP, and one of the major players in that scenario is making waves in 2010. John Hopkins, who lost his 2009 ride when Kawasaki canned their team, has been desperate not to be caught out for the second year in a row, and has had been linked with a number of options.
The main team the American has been associated with is the brand new FB Corse project, which is to field a three-cylinder 800cc bike designed by Oral Engineering, based on the bike the Italian engineering firm originally built for BMW. However, the FB Corse 34100, as the machine has been christened, is still very much under development and the question of how much racing the team will do is still unclear.
Given this uncertainty, Hopkins appears to have been hedging his bets. The M4 Suzuki team - which is scheduled to contest the AMA's American Superbike championship next season- announced last week that Hopkins would be testing for the team at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. This news, which included a statement from a team source to the effect that they were trying to tie Hopkins to a deal to race the bike in AMA for 2010, seemed to preclude any further involvement by Hopkins in FB Corse's MotoGP project.
This story, reported widely in the international press, has not been taken well by the FB Corse team. On Saturday, the team issued a press release reasserting that John Hopkins would continue to be involved in FB Corse's MotoGP project, and that the team had agreed to Hopkins request to test in the AMA. A translation of the press release, issued to the Italian website BikeRacing.it, follows:
"Following the circulation of a number of partially incorrect news stories regarding our team, which have appeared in the past 24 hours, and fed by conflicting interpretations of certain articles produced by the media (misinformation primarily issuing from websites on the other side of the ocean), FB Corse has been compelled to clarify the situation concerning its commitment to MotoGP. The primary objective of our team and of the American rider John Hopkins remains the same that it has been over the past few months. In addition to remaining in peak physical condition, the rider wanted to maintain his feeling for two wheels on the racetrack, and to satisfy his natural desire to ride a racing motorcycle in his own country. It is possible for this to take place with our approval, as it is in both our interests.
"The Californian's management, through Bob Moore, joins with FB Corse in reiterating their regret that they have not been able to test the 34100 on a track yet. The primary goal remains to realize the MotoGP project, through the new adventure of the Italian triple. For his part, John himself has said that he remains extremely anxious to test our motorcycle, rather than a bike from a lesser category. The fact that forces outside our control prevent us from taking part in an immediate test, with a rookie rider in MotoGP, does not mean that he has made arrangements to compete in another category in 2010.
"FB Corse would therefore like to underline that the circumstances discussed in the past few days are part of a normal process, agreed between the parties. Our team continues with its ambitious and difficult work, working towards the presentation in Milan, which we hope will take place in the month of February, after the return of Andrea Ferrari (who needs to undergo a minor operation in the next few days), and whose presence is necessary at the launch. We hope that we will be able to settle the curiosity of all those interested in the project at that event."
The "misunderstandings" that the FB Corse team allude to have arisen in part as a result of statements by the M4 / Team Hammer team published, among other places, on the website of the venerable American publication Roadracing World. The story in question quotes a "team source" as saying, "We're working on a deal for him to race the 2010 AMA American Superbike Championship on a Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R1000." Given that Team Hammer (aka Team M4) is owned in part by John Ulrich, founding editor of the venerable American publication Roadracing World, these statements should be taken very seriously indeed.
Furthermore, MotoMatters.com has learned that the energy drink giant Monster is fully committed to funding John Hopkins in 2010. Our sources indicate that Monster will be allocating the lion's share of its budget to backing the team that Hopkins is riding for. Sources inside the AMA indicate that this means the formation of the Monster M4 Suzuki team contesting the AMA American Superbike championship. We cannot rule out, however, that Hopper's Monster Millions will get the American back into MotoGP, this time with FB Corse.