Rizla Suzuki MotoGP
Piloting a Suzuki for the 2003 – 2007 MotoGP seasons, the American John "Hopper" Hopkins got to the podium four times, and finished the 2007 championship in fourth overall.
Due to this experience with Suzuki, Team Manager Paul Denning has chosen Hopkins to be the backup rider for the Alvaro Bautista, the sole rider on the Rizla Suzuki team. If the Spaniard is unable to compete in any of the 18 rounds in the 2011 MotoGP Championship, Hopper will pilot the GSV-R.
Paul Denning (Suzuki MotoGP Team Manager) says: "With only one rider we’ve got to think carefully about a back-up plan, in case something goes wrong. We’re obviously very much hoping that we don’t have to call on it at any point, because we’re putting everything behind Álvaro and that’s the priority. But we have an obligation to Suzuki, to Rizla and to all the team’s partners to be at all the races so we do need to have a plan."
For preparation as backup rider, Hopkins will participate in the final test of the MotoGP season at Qatar on March 13-14.
Paul Denning says: "John won’t be doing the full Test in Qatar, he will be doing some riding on the bike to help us out with some PR and filming work. That will give him the opportunity to do some laps and get a feel for the bike, and he will be there at the Test in case we need him. We’re not sure whether we’re going to need him during the test or not."
In 2008, Hopkins switched to Kawasaki before the manufacturer withdrew from MotoGP. Simultaneously Hopkins sustained a string of injuries, and switched to World Superbike in 2009, riding for Stiggy Racing Honda. In 2010, he rode for M4 Suzuki in AMA Superbike, a team run by John Ulrich.
Hopkins recently signed with the Crescent Suzuki British Superbike team for 2011, which is also run by Denning. The Suzuki TM says Hopkins had a some bad luck in the past few years, which included many injuries, but has since regained focus.
Paul Denning says: "John is available, he’s got experience and he’s fit and focused, and so he would seem to be the right man to do that job."
There is chatter of Hopkins running as a Wildcard in MotoGP, but nothing has been confirmed.