John Hopkins To Get Role As Suzuki MotoGP Backup Rider

Suzuki's decision to field just a single MotoGP bike in 2011 may have helped save the factory money, but it also left them with a serious problem. Any injury or illness to Alvaro Bautista leaves the Suzuki team riderless, not a situation that Suzuki can afford to happen.

At Sepang, Rizla Suzuki team boss Paul Denning revealed his plan to cover this situation: Denning will be keeping Suzuki's former MotoGP rider John Hopkins on call, to step in for Bautista should the young Spaniard be forced to miss any of the races, the Suzuki manager told MCN and Denning already has Hopkins under contract, as Hopper has signed with Denning's Crescent Suzuki BSB team to contest this year's British Superbike championship. Hopkins will get his first chance to get reacquainted with the Suzuki at the final MotoGP test of the year at Qatar, where he will assist the Suzuki team with testing and some promotional work.

The move is a logical consequence of both Crescent Suzuki's signing of Hopkins and Suzuki's decision to run just one bike for 2011. MotoGP's commercial rights holder Dorna had already taken a very dim view of Suzuki's semi-withdrawal from the series, only backing off on threatened legal action after Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta received assurances that Suzuki will be back in 2012 with two machines. Should Bautista be seriously injured and be forced to miss multiple races, Dorna would be in no mood to treat the wayward Suzuki with any leniency, and demanding that the factory fulfil its obligations under the terms of the contract it has with Dorna.

Hopkins has strong ties with the Rizla Suzuki team. The American rode for the squad from 2003 to 2007, before leaving for better-paying - if far less successful - pastures at Kawasaki. Hopkins had scored 4 podiums on a Suzuki, his best season coming in 2007 when he finished 4th in the championship, behind only Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi. When Kawasaki pulled out of MotoGP at the end of 2008, Hopkins was left without a ride, only securing a seat aboard the Stiggy Honda in World Superbikes at the third WSBK round of the year. That year, the American was plagued by injury, suffering a smashed femur, a wrist problem and a serious concussion, topped by the folding of the Stiggy Racing team at the end of the year.

Hopkins spent last season in the AMA, back with Team Hammer, led by John Ulrich, the man who discovered the American as a youngster. But Hopkins' departure from the team was a much frostier affair, after surgery to reconstruct his wrist left the American riding with a handicap throughout the first half of the season. Ulrich revealed his discontent with the situation in a post on the WERA board, a forum where racers and fans following the WERA racing association in the US meet - a story covered in some detail on the Asphalt & Rubber website.

It appears that Hopkins is now fully recovered from that wrist surgery, as he was keen to point out when his signing to the BSB Crescent Suzuki team was announced. If Hopkins' wrist is at anything less than 100%, riding a MotoGP bike - either in testing or during a race - will prove very difficult indeed.

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Makes sense to me. It puts him out there for future prospects, gives him a chance to see if he still has MotoGP level skills, and if indeed Suzuki goes back to a 2 rider format for 2012, it will put him near the top of the list of riders to take an open seat. He stays busy, helps Denning, and brings usable experience as a test rider. I like this move for Hopper. I have wondered about his health though.

Shattered is never a good adjective when describing a motorcycle racer's medical problems.

No doubt Suzuki have to have a backup. Hopper is a logical choice,but a correct one given the injuries and history is a dubious choice at best. Somehow,Hopper's and Chris' careers at SuzukiGP are inextricably connected.
I am really hoping Alvaro stays intact and propels forward with Suzuki all season long.
The game needs a 'write off' team to upset the apple cart prior to 2012.
Alvaro is a huge tallent,easily in the same mould as Lorenzo,Stoner and Co.
What he needs to hone is the same killer instinct.
Real balancing acts and tough calls at Suzuk this season.

It's been an interesting saga for sure! Although some don't like the airing of dirty laundry on a forum, as a fan I love being able to get an unfiltered inside glance at what really goes on! Best of luck to Hopper, but I wonder if his career is done if he fails to run up front in BSB? From the races I've seen online the racing looks tough and then add the tracks and a lot of wet races, it could make for a miserable year for Hopper.

The racing is usually very close and tough, some of the tracks are narrow, dangerous and will be a different style to what hes used to in the states and Gp circuits. Wet races too as you said.
But I'm glad hes back, was a big fan of the Suzuki duo of Chris and John back then. They did so well that year, and Hoppers style is exciting to watch on his own. He was like Stoner and Spies are: all movement and action when they're riding. And mega lean angles! Hope he has a good year and would love to see him back in Gps

Aoki does all the donkey work of testing and he's bumped out of his back up role that he's done nearly annually.

...isn't it a bit risky to think he'll be available if Bautista runs into difficulty.

Spending a season on all-new tracks isn't exactly confidence-inspiring for his health and fitness, but I really hope it works out well for him, and that he's had sufficient time to ponder the reward for staying in one piece!

I had already been wondering if someone had contracted him to be a test rider when he wasn't present at Sepang last week, so I think this is great news for all involved.

Will be so far off the pace now its not funny. He'll struggle even in BSB.

i have read elsewhere that denning wants to wildcard john at the british gp, is there any truth in this?

Not that a wild card at the British GP would be a bad idea, but are you thinking of his wildcard at an early WSBK round?

The guy has always shown pace, but never seems to be able to keep it going for long stretches.

Good luck to him, but lets remember he hasn't won ANYTHING since 2001. And if he does get a shot, he's still on GSV-R...