Hopkins Second Fastest in BSB Qualifying at Brands Hatch

Henny Ray Abrams | August 5, 2011

FAWKHAM, KENT, ENGLAND: It took a new lap record by Swan Yamaha’s Tommy Hill to deny Samsung Crescent Racing’s John Hopkins (Suz) his third consecutive pole position in the British Superbike Championship.Hopkins will start this afternoon’s first of three British Superbike races from the front row after qualifying second to Hill on an overcast day at the Brands Hatch GP circuit just outside of London.Hopkins, winner of the pole in the last two races at Snetterton and Oulton Park, made it easily through the the first two qualifying sessions. In the first 20 minute session he was second to Swan Yamaha’s Michael Laverty by .098 sec. And in the second he was fourth to Tommy Hill, at a gap of .137 sec. In the third session he jumped up to second with about two and a half minutes remaining, then cooled his tires for a lap before a final push. The last lap didn’t improve on his best and he’ll start today’s race in a Yamaha sandwich between Hill and Laverty.Hill finished with a time of 1:25.537 mins., well under the existing lap record of 1:25.724 mins. set by Gregorio Lavilla in 2007. Hopkins was second at 1:25.404 and missed out on the pole by only .047 sec.”Just shows the Samsung Crescent Suzuki’s been working good all year on new and old tires, but this time we got beat out,” Hopkins said. “I was able to do it at Oulton Park and be able to pull one out of the bag there on the last one, but couldn’t do it this time. Tommy (Hill) did an amazing lap and hat’s off to him.”The Brands Hatch GP layout is yet another new track for Hopkins, though he did ride it the Tuesday before the Silverstone round of the World Superbike Championship and said he was “really enjoying it. It’s a good track. It’s an extremely crucial track, as there’s 150 points up for grabs (75 this weekend and 75 more in the season finale) with it being the final round in the shoot-out.” Brands Hatch hosts three rounds of the BSB series. The opening round was on the shorter Brands Hatch Indy circuit and this weekend’s round and the final round of the shoot-out will be held on the 2.433-mile GP layout.”Yeah, I’m just happy that we found the bike works well and that I really enjoy myself around here. It’s going to be a pretty quick shoot-out race. Not a lot of time to get comfortable. Just want to get out front with these guys, get a good start and see how the bike’s working against the old Yamaha sandwich I’m in.”Brands Hatch is a home race for Hill, who comes from Lingfield. “It’s all the Cockney boys on the corner all shouting and screaming at me trying to make me go faster,” he said in his thick Cockney accent. “But it’s good to do it at the home track.”It’s a long weekend for everyone. It’s pretty busy today, as well. For us riders, it’s good to be out there, good to be riding. Pretty busy for the teams. If you want to make a big change to the bike you’ve not got a lot of time. And the problem is, as well, if you make a big change, you then could mess yourself up in a session because you’ve only got half an hour. But it’s good that we’re out there riding and it’s good and the sessions keep up busy anyway.”It’s good to have a race this afternoon. It’s always good to have three chances, it’s a good thing with Superbike; we always get two, but this weekend we got three.”Jake Zemke, riding the Team WFR Honda in the EVO class, was knocked out in the first round, but still qualified fifth fastest in class.Qualifying:1. Tommy Hill (Yamaha) 1:25.357

2. John Hopkins (Suzuki) 1:25.404

3. Michael Laverty (Yamaha) 1:25.601

4. Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki) 1:25.827

5. Shane Byrne (Honda) 1:25.936

6. Martin Jessopp (Ducati) 1:25.987

7. Michael Rutter (Ducati) 1:26.180

8. James Westmoreland (Yamaha) 1:26.208

9. Gary Mason (Kawasaki) 1:26.485

10. Graeme Gowland (Honda) 1:26.683


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.