Hopkins Closing On AMA Deal? #21 Entered In AMA Superbike Series

The signs are growing that John Hopkins has come to a decision about his future. That future, it seems likely, is in his home country of the United States of America rather than Italy. The grounds for such a conclusion were first spotted by the Italian website BikeRacing.it: The entry list for the American Superbike class in the AMA includes the following line item:

No. Rider(s) Team Bike Sponsors
21 TBD M4 Suzuki Suzuki GSX-R1000 TBA

As anyone who has followed Hopkins' career for any length of time knows, #21 is John Hopkins' number. And M4 Suzuki is Team Hammer, the team run by Roadracing World Editor and Hopkins' former mentor, John Ulrich.

The mere fact that the #21 has been entered does not mean that Hopper is signed, however. When contacted by MotoMatters.com, the team confirmed that they had reserved Hopkins' favorite #21 at the request of his manager "to make sure we had it in case it is needed." Since AMA Pro Racing assigns numbers to teams rather than riders, reserving the number makes good sense, but does not limit the team's options.

In fact, Team Hammer, like many AMA teams, have reserved several numbers in case they need them for riders with lucky or special numbers. "Since each number costs money, [AMA Pro Racing] let established teams reserve several," the team told us.

Earlier in the week, John Hopkins had told Roadracing World's David Swarts that he was leaning towards a return to the AMA. The initial deal with the FB Corse MotoGP team was to test the bike before making a decision, but that has not proved possible. That uncertainty is leading Hopper to favor the known quantity in M4 Suzuki.

But the deal is not yet done. Preparations are ongoing, a Team Hammer source told us, but the team has yet to see a signed contract. Bob Moore, John Hopkins' manager, had already told us earlier in the week that negotiations were still ongoing, but a final decision was still pending. The only thing that is certain is that Monster Energy will be footing the bill, Moore confirmed.

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I'm willing to bet that the "ongoing negotiations" - rather than being about money - are attempting to orchestrate a way for Hopper to be available for both possibilities without violating a contract with the other.

Someone is looking at schedules and trying to work out where his loyalties should be on weekends with conflicts, and what happens if either option fails completely, mid-season.

Since the FB Corse project is not yet a bike on the track, it would be foolish for Hopkins to have that as his only option this year.  Conversely, if the team find out they cannot compete every race, and can only appear sporadically through the season, they will want someone of Hopper's caliber available, if at all possible.

I'm sure John Ulrich understands this, so it seems logical to infer that the details of the "negotiations" are in the lap of the FB Corse people.

And if that doesn't work out, it would seem Garry McCoy's phone has probably been ringing with a call from Italy...

Has anybody considered the possibility that John Hopkins is being used as a red herring to mask the return of the real owner of the #21 Troy Bayliss?

DMG would just love the chance to kill Troy Bayliss.

How else can they top last year?