Photo courtesy Lloyds British Moto Rapido Ducati team
Lloyds British Moto Rapido Ducati team conformed today that John Hopkins is the permanent rider for team for the rest of the 2015 MCE British Superbike Championship season. Hopkins replaces the Czech rider Jakub Smrz, who was injured following a heavy crash in qualifying at Snetterton back in June. The injury to his left hand sidelined Smrz for the Knockhill, Brands Hatch and Thruxton rounds.
Hopkins, the 2011 BSB runner-up, had been drafted as a temporary replacement for the last two rounds but with the injury to ‘Kuba’ still in question it has been decided that he will be replaced on a permanent basis by the ex-MotoGP Californian.
“I have definitely been enjoying myself with the team and there is a great atmosphere and for me it has been fantastic to come in straight away and show what we are capable of,” Hopkins said. “I haven’t enjoyed myself on a bike this much in a long time and this opportunity is what I have been waiting for, especially after the frustrating start of the year when you had to watch everyone else testing and racing.
“I bided my time and it has paid off because I wanted to come back with a team and package that I knew had the potential to be at the front and everything I think happens for a reason. I can’t deny that I feel bad for Kuba because he is a great rider and I am sure he will be back soon, but I had to grasp this opportunity and I couldn’t give it up.
“It is amazing to think where we are already; I have had to take a step back and breathe to just look and appreciate how much progress has been made already. I have felt instantly at home with the feel of the throttle and the chassis which is incredible, I think that comes down to it feeling very similar to how the GP bikes were that I spent most of my career on.
“Last weekend we had a few technical issues at the start of the weekend, which wasn’t the fault of the team, but some of the things would have been what everybody else had ironed out at the start of the year.
“We are coming up to some of my favorite tracks and I couldn’t be more excited now and I definitely want to pick up where we left off last weekend at Thruxton.”
Steve Moore, Lloyds British Moto Rapido Ducati Team Principal, said: “I can confirm that John Hopkins will ride for the team for the remainder of the season and is now signed as our permanent rider.
“Expanding the team to a two rider effort isn’t possible, we simply don’t have the resources to properly staff and run two riders without compromising the effort and attention to detail that I’m sure has pushed the team forward. To overstretch would be a big mistake and wouldn’t be professional or fair to either rider. Personally it isn’t an easy decision to replace Kuba, but with his injury still in question and the momentum we have with John I have to do what is the best for the team, sponsors and Ducati. I’ve spoken to Kuba and he remains professional, which I thank and respect him for. It’s important to recognise the amazing development work that he has done with the Ducati. The situation doesn’t do him any justice especially as the bike was considerably improved prior to the Snetterton round (specifically the clutch to fix the race launch issue) and he just didn’t get a chance to display his potential on the bike John is now riding. I am sure he would be a front running rider too and if we had the opportunity to expand the team there would be no question about having him ride.
“The remainder of the season and 2016 is what we have to concentrate on now, and my job is to make the decisions that will give us the best chance of success.”
Smrz said he will now focus on getting healthy for a return to racing.
“Racing is not always going direction you want and I understand and respect decision of the team,” said Jakub Smrz. “It’s been hard beginning of season and very unlucky for me and team as well. In the moment when things started to work perfect and I could finally fight for podiums I got injured. Of course I’m not happy for early season finish and that it’s not me to benefit from hard development work we’ve done. But I wish good luck to Moto Rapido and John in the remaining of season. Now I will continue in my fitness preparation and hopefully I can be back on a race bike soon.”
Hopkins and the Lloyds British Moto Rapido Team will be back in action at Cadwell Park on July 21-23.