Hopkins Cuts Further Into Points Lead

Henny Ray Abrams | August 7, 2011

FAWKHAM, KENT, ENGLAND, AUG 7 –  John Hopkins bolstered his championship hopes with a pair of podiums that gave him a net gain of eight championship points after three British Superbike races over two days on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit east of London.Sunday’s second race was the best of the weekend for the Samsung Crescent Racing Suzuki rider. The Californian got off the line just behind Swan Yamaha’s Tommy Hill and stuck to him throughout. Race one winner Shane Byrne (HM Plant Honda) hung in for the first eight laps before a rear tire vibration slowed his drive while trying to keep up with the leaders, who were setting a blistering pace. That put Byrne under pressure from Hill’s teammate, Michael Laverty, for the duration.Once Byrne slowed it was a two-rider race. Hopkins had earlier set the fastest lap of the race, but he could never get close enough to put a wheel on Hill. The Yamaha was better off the corners and used the tire less, which meant that Hopkins was going to be at a disadvantage later in the race.”I tried absolutely everything in that race to stay with Tommy (Hill) and he just started to edge away from me,” Hopkins said. “Once the tire got used a little bit I just couldn’t hang with him.”Hill’s lead was nearly a second on the 15th lap and the next one ended with the gap expanding to 1.434 secs. Hopkins knew he’d have to accept second at that point and he did, finishing 4.113 secs. back, but only after running off the track on the final lap.”Maybe if there was another race, the way that my results have been going, I might win one, because there was a fourth, third, and second,” Hopkins said of the triple-header. “It was a good weekend. We’re in the Showdown and just really looking forward to going to Cadwell (Park) and seeing if we can’t accumulate a couple more podium credits before going into the Showdown.”Hill currently has 21 podium credits to 20 for Byrne and 18 for Hopkins. The three-round, seven-race Showdown will reset the top six riders’ points at 300, plus their podium credits. Hill earned his final credits with his fifth win of the season.”That was probably my best ride all season, probably last season as well,” he said. “I just knew I needed to get off the line and, I mean, fair play to John (Hopkins) and the rest of the boys; they kept the pressure on me.”It’s quite demoralizing actually. I think Shakey (Byrne) said the same thing in the first race; you come past every lap and you think, ‘Right, I bite the screen for two or three laps, still naught-point-one-of-a-second.’ You’re just pushing and pushing and pushing. I suppose this is what it’s going to take to try and win the championship. I think you can see there’s three lads here that want it and if the bar’s raised, we’ll go with it, so it’s just going to get harder and harder.”Byrne held off Laverty for the entire 20-lap race, crossing the line in front by .173 secs.”We’ve had a really, really difficult weekend and to turn it around with a win and a third, obviously I’m really really happy,” the two-time BSB champions said. “But all credit to both Tommy and to John. In the beginning of that race we were so much quicker than we’d been in the first race. and for the first couple of laps I felt quite comfortable to sit on the back of ‘em, but then the bike started to develop a bit of a vibration from the rear tire and it just got worse as the race went on.”A first and a third’s a lot better than a first and a DNF. I couldn’t stay with them that time and for me as a racer, that’s really, really frustrating.”Then came Michael Rutter (Rapid Solicitors Batham Ducati) in fifth under pressure from the late charging Riyuichi Kiyonari, the defending BSB champion who’s fighting for sixth in the championship.The three-race weekend ended with Byrne holding 255 points to 231 for Hopkins and 210 for Hill.WFR Racing’s Graeme Gowland won all three EVO races. Today he was joined on the podium by teammates Glen Richards and Jake Zemke.”That’s kind of where I expected to be myself,” Zemke said after finishing third in class and 19th overall. “Obviously I’d like to be battling with my teammates. With this short weekend, having Saturday and Sunday at this track, I think we definitely did well. We improved every session we went out and made the bike better. Obviously it’s a big boost. It’s the first time the team’s had three riders on the podium the whole season, so they’re all really excited about that and I am as well. Obviously, I want to be up there mixing it up and get some more podiums this year.”Now the series has a three week break before heading to Cadwell Park and the final qualifying round of the championship before the three-race Showdown. But Hopkins has no rest. On Tuesday he’s off to Brno to ride the Rizla Suzuki in the Czech Grand Prix.Race Two:1. Tommy Hill (Yamaha)

2. John Hopkins (Suzuki)

3. Shane Byrne (Honda)

4. Michael Laverty (Yamaha)

5. Michael Rutter (Ducati)

6. Ryuichi Kiyonari (Honda)

7. Gary Mason (Kawasaki)

8. Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki)

9. Peter Hickman (Honda)

10. John Kirkham (Suzuki)Championship Standings:1. Shane Byrne (HM Plant Honda) 255

2. John Hopkins (Samsung Crescent Racing Suzuki) 231

3. Tommy Hill (Swan Yamaha) 210

4. Michael Laverty (Swan Yamaha) 163

5. Josh Brookes (Relentless Suzuki by TAS) 146

6. Ryuichi Kiyonari (HM Plant Honda) 135


Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.