The World Superbike paddock has been welcoming an increasing number of Americans this year, with several riders following where Ben Spies has led. John Hopkins ousted Roby Rolfo at Stiggy Honda earlier this year, and after Hopper suffered a serious leg injury for the second year running at Assen, he was replaced by another American, Jake Zemke at Monza.
After the first corner pile up at Monza took out Brendan Roberts, Troy Corser, Max Neukirchner and Makoto Tamada, the need for replacement riders has become pressing, and yet more opportunities are being opened to American riders, especially with the US round of World Superbikes due to take place at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah two weeks from now. Jake Zemke looks to be almost certain to take the place of John Hopkins again, Zemke only missing from Kyalami because of a calendar clash with the AMA at Infineon Raceway this weekend.
Zemke and WSBK regular Ben Spies are to be joined by another American at Miller Motorsports Park: According to sources close to the PBM Kawasaki team, Jamie Hacking will replace Makoto Tamada in Utah, as the Japanese rider is still recovering from having a metal plate inserted in his hand after sustaining a wrist fracture at Monza. Hacking already has international experience, having replaced John Hopkins at Kawasaki during the 2008 USGP at Laguna Seca. More significantly, he is one of the very few riders on the planet capable of making the Kawasaki ZX-10R competitive, having campaigned it with relative success against Mat Mladin and Ben Spies in AMA Superbike last year. Elsewhere, the bike has had huge problems just scoring points, completely outclassed by the other bikes from both Japan and Italy.
The news that Hacking is to replace Tamada has not been made official yet, though Hacking hinted at it when questioned about it by Roadracing World at Infineon, saying "there's a possibility I might do it."
The news will also come as a disappointment to the many South African fans of Sheridan Morais, the reigning South African Superbike champion currently filling in for Tamada at Kyalami. Like Hacking, Morais is also one of a handful of riders capable of making the Kawasaki go, as he has proved so eloquently at Kyalami, easily making it into Superpole 2, and coming just a tenth of a second short of making it all the way into the final qualifying session. Morais could well get Kawasaki's best result of the year on Sunday, but with Hacking being both a known quantity on the Kawasaki and intimately familiar with the track at Miller, the American is likely to get the nod.