Just six weeks after an unfortunate turn of faith at Assen left John Hopkins seriously injured, the ex MotoGP rider made his return with the Stiggy Racing squad, and set his first laps in hot conditions at the Misano track today.
John Hopkins-who has been performing successfully at the Italian track in recent years-struggled to find the flexibility in his left leg. Staggering off the bike after each painful session indicated the lack of muscle power build in his short period of recuperation, and proved the big absent in order to push the bike around the track. Hopkins focus in the opening day of qualifying was entirely aimed at getting back the feeling rather than pushing the lap times.
Leon Haslam opened the first day at Misano by posting the ninth fastest time on the sheets in the first qualifying. A newcomer to the track in its current direction, Haslam quickly glued with his bike at the Misano track and set his fastest time of the day at 1'37.490s, running only 0.47s off the pace set by provisional pole sitter Michel Fabrizio.
Leon Haslam Speaks... (P9, 1'37.490s)
"It has been a good day for me. We made some good progress here today and managed to find a good direction for tomorrow. We are not too far away from the front. I set my fastest lap on the fifteenth lap on the same tyre. All in all it is looking pretty good. I like the circuit a lot and have been racing here before, but that was before they changed the direction. We still have some areas we need to improve, but to ride within the top 10 at this stage is pretty good. I am happy with the results so far."
John Hopkins Speaks... (P26, 1'38.856s)
"I went to the clinic just before the start of the last session to relieve the pain a little. I only have limited movement on my bike as I still have to break away a lot of the scar tissue on the inside of the hip.
Right now I am trying to get back my flexibility and work my way up again. Normally I like to hop all over the machine and be demanding over my bike. Unfortunately, right now it is hard for me to put any pressure on my left foot. In my last lap I lost nearly a second in the last two corners, it was impossible to put any weight onto my foot at all. I am continuing to work with the clinica and try and regain my flexibility. My main focus is to get healthy again and just make progress."
Johan Stigefelt Speaks... (Team Manager)
"Leon is here for the first time after they altered the direction of the track. He has been putting in a great performance and feels very confident. He set his fastest lap of the day on old tyres, and I am sure there will be more coming tomorrow. John is still in a lot of pain at the moment. It has only been six weeks since he had his injury, and we need to give him some more time to recover and come back. When he feels comfortable again, he can start pushing, but for now we will just take it step by step. There is absolutely no pressure from the team. We will give him the time to come back."
World Superbike Results QP1 from Misano
1. M.Fabrizio 1'37.016
2. B.Spies 1'37.102
3. Y.Kagayama 1'37.209
9. L.Haslam 1'37.490
26. J. Hopkins 1'38.856