BROOKLYN, NY, NOV. 16 – John Hopkins woke up at four o’clock on Friday morning in agony. The surgically repaired and metal-filled ring finger on his right hand had become infected – it was discolored and swollen – and he had to be rushed to the emergency room. Following treatment to relieve the pain and swelling, he was taken to a second hospital, where his surgeon practices and where the infection was cleaned out, the hardware was removed, and the hand was put in a cast.
Hopkins hadn’t been healthy for much of the past three seasons, but 2011 was different. Aboard the Samsung Crescent Suzuki he was a contender in the British Superbike Championship and also had a few MotoGP rides on the Rizla Suzuki team he’d left at the end of 2007. It was at the Czech Grand Prix in Brno that his season would be irrevocably altered when he hurt the finger in a wet track practice crash. For the Showdown portion of the BSB championship, Hopkins had to commute between England and California, though it didn’t greatly affect his championship drives. Hopkins was in contention for the title to the finish line of the final race at Brands Hatch, where he lost out to Swan Yamaha’s Tommy Hill by .016 of a second. It didn’t help that an electrical failure in a race earlier in the day had erased his championship cushion.
Hopkins’ final MotoGP ride came at the Malaysian Grand Prix. As in the Czech Republic, it didn’t end well. The metal had come loose during practice and he had to withdraw. More surgery would be necessary. On November 1 a bone graft was performed, as was adjustment of the plates and screws. The finger was healing fine until Friday night, when infection set in. That prompted another round of surgery, his 26th, now to immobilize his hand. He’s also been put on an intensive antibiotics regimen to make sure he’s ready when the 2012 season begins. Where he’ll be riding is only now coming into focus. It isn’t official, but he has a pretty good idea.
“Obviously, I’ve been waiting on Suzuki’s decision throughout, because with the history and wanting to make the future and everything, I’ve been waiting for Suzuki to obviously make their decision,” he said in a phone call from his home in Rancho Sante Fe, California. “But, obviously, nothing’s official, but I mean it seems pretty clear on what’s going on. Although, I can’t confirm anything, it’s pretty clear right now what’s happening. All the media and stuff that I’ve been reading, it seems like it can be pretty accurate.’And what’s been written is that he’ll be riding a Crescent Suzuki in the World Superbike Championship.”That’s still there and still available and luckily Paul [Denning] was holding out for myself, obviously, while everyone waited for the Suzuki kind of MotoGP offer,” he said. “So, I mean, that offer’s still on the table. That’s definitely always was going to be my first choice if I were to go the World Superbike route.”He added, “I mean if you look at it a year ago, if I’d said I’d be in the position to be taking the position with World Superbike and stuff like that, with also MotoGP previous offers on the table and stuff like that, I mean I’d be over the moon. So obviously there’s bound to be some disappointment, obviously, in what’s happening with Suzuki and stuff. But it is what it is and I’m just really, really excited to be moving along and to be jumping up to a world stage.”Obviously, MotoGP, like I said, was my goal but to be racing on the world stage on a really competitive machine on a great team that I’ve never felt so much at home with, yeah, I mean it’s a win-win situation. It’s just another step in getting myself back to where want to go. With all things considered I think it could turn out to be a really, really good year. And it’s not going to be easy by any means, but the possibility of being able to take home a World Championship is there. And team is definitely capable of it. So I think with the right package and a good year from myself I think we can fight for that. that would be the biggest achievement of my career thus far. Hopefully that would also move me back to, obviously, a MotoGP ride like I’d intended to.”