British Superbikes’ John Hopkins will ignore pain at Snetterton
Do not be tricked by John Hopkins' settled demeanour on top of his Crescent Racing Suzuki around Snetterton this weekend – inside those leathers will be a man in pain.
The star they call Hopper joins the rest of the British Superbikes field in Norfolk for round six of the 2011 championship, but the San Diego rider – currently second in the standings – failed to finish for the first time in his debut season on his last outing after a nasty smash at Knockhill two weeks ago.
The injuries were still raw for a day's testing at Snetterton last week – as they will be this weekend, when former Moto GP racer Hopkins will be keen to get his title challenge back on track.
'It hurts right now – it's really, really sore,' said Hopkins. 'I've chipped and fractured the bone just up from the collarbone joint. It's pretty flared up and we weren't able to get as much done as we would have wished to during testing. But we were able to match our lap time we did here in testing earlier in the year, and that was with more adrenaline and an urge to go quicker. It just shows we've improved the setting on a bike quite a lot from when we were here a couple of months ago and I'm just getting stronger and stronger with the machine and feeling more comfortable.'
Not that this will be the worst injury Hopkins has had to race with.
'I've had to be carried on to the bike – I just couldn't walk on my own two feet and had to be carried on to it to make races, so... I mean, I have ridden a lot more injured.
'I got the OK from the doctor and he said it's stable. There was no way I would have ridden if there was any endangerment of separating or if bone had to actually reconnect. But basically the chip is off and just floating. At some stage down the road I'll have to get it out but that's about it.'
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For now, minor surgery can wait. This weekend it is all about Sunday's double-header. It will be the first major meeting around the new Snetterton 300 format – which, for a rider having to learn a new track every round, is something of a bonus.
'Every one of these tracks is new to me,' said the 28-year-old. 'The only one I had any previous knowledge of coming into this year was Donington, it was the only one I had ever ridden consistently, and then I did two laps around Brands Hatch GP – that was it.
'So we've got that little bit of a more even playing field here because we're learning the new track with everyone else, so we'll see how it pans out for the rest of the weekend.
'But it's good. It's a proper race track. It's got everything – fast flowing, it's got tight stuff, fast corners, hard breaking. It's a fun track and I'm really enjoying it so far.'
No American had scored a podium in British Superbikes until Hopkins recorded a superb race two win at Oulton Park in May.
And with 31 points between him and championship leader Shane 'Shakey' Byrne's HM Plant Honda, Hopper is determined to cash in on his impressive start.
'The season's going well, as good as we could have hoped besides the last race,' he added. 'Going into the season I just wanted to achieve good results for the team and hopefully start getting on the podium consistently midway through the season. That was the plan.
'Now we've been on the podium quite a few times and already got the race win under our belts, we want to just try to rack up the race wins up to the end of the season.'