John Hopkins continues to sidle up to a MotoGP ride for 2012. After replacing Alvaro Bautista at Jerez and then entering as a wildcard at Brno, the current BSB championship leader is set for another wildcard aboard the Rizla Suzuki, this time at the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang. Hopkins will line up in Sepang alongside Bautista again, as he did at Brno, though he will be hoping for a better outcome, the American unable to race in the Czech Republic after crashing out during practice on the Saturday of the Brno meeting.
By the time Hopkins flies out to Malaysia, the British Superbike Championship - in which he is currently competing for the MotoGP team's Crescent Suzuki sister squad - should have concluded, with Hopkins the hot favorite for the title. Hopkins will then be free to start concentrating on 2012, and his hopes of returning to the MotoGP series full time. The American is still working closely with Crescent, and could either join MotoGP with Suzuki - if the Hamamatsu factory decide to stay in the series for next year - or possibly join Lucio Cecchinello's LCR Honda squad as the second rider to either Andrea Dovizioso or Randy de Puniet. Should Suzuki pull out of MotoGP and his other options fall through, Hopper looks most likely to switch to the World Superbike series, effectively riding for the same team, as Paul Denning's Rizla Suzuki team is also working on a WSBK entry as a backup, should MotoGP no longer be possible.
Below is the press release from the Rizla Suzuki team announcing Hopkins' wildcard at Sepang:
Hopkins and Rizla Suzuki back together at Sepang
Publish Date: Thursday, September 29, 2011
John Hopkins will re-join the Rizla Suzuki MotoGP team as a wild-card rider in Sepang for the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday 23rd October.
Hopkins will make a welcome return to the Rizla Suzuki squad for his second wild-card event of the season. His first event was at Brno where he unfortunately crashed and injured his right hand in a practice session. He had shown huge potential during the first day and had finished in 10th place on the time-sheets, but his injury on day two stopped the Anglo-American from showing what he might have achieved after a full weekend on-board the Suzuki GSV-R. Hopkins has already completed a MotoGP race this season, after he deputised for Álvaro Bautista at Jerez and scored a creditable 10th place at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Hopkins is currently leading the British Superbike championship onboard his Suzuki GSX-R1000 with the Samsung Crescent Racing team. The final event of the season will see him compete in a triple-header race weekend at Brands Hatch in England on Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th October, as he attempts to secure the championship during his debut season.
"I am really pumped to get this chance to ride in a MotoGP race with the Rizla Suzuki team. I thought after Brno that I wouldn't get the opportunity again and was really disappointed that I missed out there due to a silly mistake, so to be heading to Sepang is fantastic. It is one of my favourite tracks and I know it well because we used to test there a lot. My main focus is on the British Championship at the moment, but as soon as that is over I will be in MotoGP mode and putting all my efforts into getting a good result at Sepang and showing that I can perform at the highest level. I really want to get back into MotoGP and this is a great chance to show what I can do.
"Again I need to thank everyone at Rizla Suzuki for giving me this opportunity and my Samsung Crescent team – I hope that by the time I get back on the MotoGP bike we will have been celebrating something really big at Brands Hatch!"
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
"We'd intended to give John at least one outing on the Rizla Suzuki Grand Prix bike this year and we're delighted that he'll join us in Malaysia to form a two–man team with Álvaro. Sepang is one of John's favourite tracks and also one that the GSV-R has performed well at in the past. What happened in Brno – with John's injury – and the way he has worked so hard to come back from it, and challenge for the British Superbike Championship, has only reaffirmed his commitment to success and getting back to the top level. Let's hope at Sepang we manage to line up at the start of the race with two Rizla Suzukis and that Álvaro and John can show what they and the team are all capable of producing."