The last time the American John “Hoppper” Hopkins competed on the Suzuki GSV-R was the 2007 MotoGP season, when he finished fourth overall in the championship.
But this is about to change this weekend. With minimal track time on the 2011 Rizla Suzuki MotoGP machine, Hopkins will return at the Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez. It’s not under great circumstances that Hopkins gets to make his return to MotoGP; the Californian is filling in for the sole Suzuki rider on the 2011 MotoGP grid, Alvaro Bautista.
The Spaniard Bautista broke his femur during free practice March 18 for the opening round of 2011 MotoGP at Losail International Circuit, Qatar.
Bautista is currently recovering from surgery back home in Spain, but is expected to be at the Jerez round of MotoGP this weekend to support his Suzuki team. There is still no word of when Bautista will return to racing.
The last few years of racing have been rough for Hopkins, as he continued recovering from a wrist injury that almost ended his career last season while racing in AMA Superbike. For 2011, Hopkins joined the Samsung Crescent Racing Suzuki team in British Superbike, hoping to rebuild his “form and make a full-time return to the world stage.”
Hopkins will be at Jerez aboard the Suzuki GSV-R this Friday for the first two of three practices for the Spanish Grand Prix, which brought in almost 250,000 visitors in 2010 MotoGP. He will then be on the track Saturday for the final free practice and qualifying before Sunday’s 27-lap race, round 2 of 18.
John Hopkins (Rizla Suzuki Backup Rider) says: “I was shocked by what happened to Alvaro, especially after such good winter testing, and I really wish him a speedy and full recovery – I wanted the opportunity to get back on a MotoGP bike, but not under these circumstances.
“I’m under no illusions that this will be tough weekend for me, as I’ve not been on a GP machine for a couple of years or ridden the new control tires – except for the filming I did in Qatar a couple of weeks ago – so I realize this will be a step up from what I have been riding recently.
“The bikes have moved on in the last three years, but when I rode the GSV-R at Losail it seemed so familiar and I immediately had a good feeling, but that was at filming pace, so it’s going to be a lot different at race pace! I know the Jerez track well, so it’s not like I need to learn a new circuit and I also know the team well so that that will help a lot.
“I will certainly be trying as hard as I can to get a good result and make sure that I don’t disappoint anybody – myself included. I want to say a big thank-you to Suzuki and Rizla for giving me this opportunity and I intend to pay back their faith with a good performance on my return to MotoGP.”