|John Hopkins in Action at Thruxton|
- Two front row starts for the Ducati rider
- Sure-fire podiums foiled
- Welcome return to the front of the BSB field
The 1199 Panigale Superbike had been in the top three throughout Friday and Saturday practice, and in qualifying Hopper found himself in an intense battle for pole position with the in-form Josh Brookes. The Ducati was fastest in the second of the three-part session, but just missed out on the number one spot in the top ten shootout by a couple of tenths.
Starting from second the #15 bike reared its front wheel off the line, but the former MotoGP star kept the throttle pinned and maintained his position in the early running. The race was halted after six laps with oil on the track, but on the restart Hopper blasted into the lead.
Together with Brookes and Dan Linfoot, he powered away from the field and the trio began swapping positions at a scorching pace. With just four laps to go there was heartache for the hard-working local squad, as a component failure put John out of the race.
The team faced the herculean task of replacing the exhaust system before the second race of the day, and admirably got the bike ready and in position for another front row start. It was another brilliant start to the contest, with Hopper jumping to second place off the line and settling in 0.8s behind race leader Brookes.
A safety car period followed, and on the restart Hopper was once again right with the leader. With 14 laps completed, however, a slight mistake at the Club Chicane saw him clip the kerb and come down, causing further heartbreak.
Despite the disappointment, there are huge positives for the team to take away from the weekend, and Lloyds British Moto Rapido Ducati will be hunting for that elusive first podium in two weeks’ time at Cadwell Park.
|John Hopkins Interview|
John Hopkins said: “I am more frustrated than disappointed and that is because we did have the podiums in our grasp. Positives – there are loads of them to take away from the weekend. We have had a few technical issues and so we haven’t been able to do long runs, but this is the kind of thing that people get rid of in pre-season testing and we have not had that luxury so we are kind of learning as we go on during the race weekends. Even so I am extremely happy with the way things are going on the bike, the way it suits my riding style is amazing and I’m enjoying myself on a motorcycle like I haven’t in a long, long time.
“There was nothing anyone could do about the component failure in race one, and unfortunately in the second race the safety car came out and spoilt my strategy. I felt a lot more comfortable on the last lap before the safety car came out and I always save my tyres three quarters in and then in the last five laps when they drop off I put the hammer down and that was my plan. With no championship points at stake I thought I would try and hang with Brookes and go for the win but unfortunately I hit the kerb and lost the front.
“Even though we haven’t had the results, the positives are amazing and I am really happy with the way things are going. I enjoy Thruxton it but it is not my favourite track, so I'm really hopeful to carry on and get that podium.
Team Principal Steve Moore said: "We had a component failure on the Friday which we replaced, and a couple of other niggly issues, so unfortunately that cost us half a session. We never had a good run at it and what we do need is track time, so John is in a situation where he is playing catch up. Some of the issues we are having are unique to how he rides, how he uses the clutch, how hard he is on the motor, how hard he is on the tyres all those sort of things that we are learning on a race weekend where most teams would have ticked that box months ago. So we have to be pleased that we are running at the front, that's the big difference now - John wasn’t thinking of defending his position (in race 2) he was thinking of taking first.
"When we first signed John up we thought we'd be aiming for the top ten, then at Brands that became top five and then we came here and by the second session we were talking about winning races and that is impressive for us, the team was perfect and we can’t ask for more really."
It was a difficult weekend for James Egan in the National Superstock 1000 Championship. Struggling for set-up in free practice and qualifying, the South African rider secured 22nd on the grid for the race, however a technical problem saw him stall the bike as they lined up for the race start. This forced the #81 machine right to the back as the lights went out, but despite blasting his way back through to 25th, the mechanical gremlins returned and he was forced to retire.
|James Egan at Thruxton|
James Egan said: “It’s been tough for us this weekend – to be honest we haven’t had the right set-up all weekend, the bike has been working well one moment and then not the next. We were held for quite a while on the line and the clutch felt a bit spongey, and we think that the hydraulic fluid started to boil which caused it to slip. It wasn’t worth crashing the bike so I had to retire, but we’ll regroup and come back stronger at Cadwell Park.”