John Hopkins fought back tears as he stood on the top step of a BSB podium for the first time at Oulton Park on Monday.
The Crescent Suzuki rider made a stuttering start to his career in the UK after only coming away with 11 points from the opening weekend at Brands Hatch.
But 'Hopper' was immediately on the pace and qualified on the front row for race one which he converted into second place behind Ryuichi Kiyonari. He later revealed he was forced to ride with caution in the closing stages, preventing him from challenging the HM Plant Honda.
“The racing, as before at Brands Hatch, was intense, there was carnage at times. But with my motocross background I can endure that. The first race went well; I started well and went with the leaders. At the end of the race I got into second and I had to ride for the finish at that point, but that’s never a satisfying feeling.”
The American would make history in race two though, becoming the first rider from the Unites States to win a British Superbike race. Hopkins did admit that the win may not have been possible had the safety car not intervened following Josh Brookes' accident.
“Curiously that race didn’t go so well early on and I dropped back after the start. I regrouped but still had a lot of work to do to catch the two leaders, so I was definitely the man who gained the most when one of them crashed bringing out the pace car. Even after that it came down to a three-way battle. But the bike felt so good I knew the win was possible. I took the lead with two laps to go and never looked back.”
Despite his long career in the premier class of motorcycle racing, Hopkins was visibly moved as the national anthem rang out on the podium, and he explained why afterwards.
“It’s been 11 years since I last won a race – that and all that’s happened to me over the past few years meant that this was one emotional win. I was definitely teary-eyed on the podium. I couldn’t be happier.”
Jack Valentine, team manager of Samsung Crescent Racing, believes Hopkins’ ability to learn quickly will make him a force in this season’s title race.
“At Brands Hatch last weekend he learned just how tough BSB can be, this weekend he applied those lessons. Oulton Park is not an easy track to master, not by any measure, so his performance this weekend shows he’s very much a contender for this championship.”
Hopkins will now head to Croft next weekend in fourth place in the championship with 56 points. Shane Byrne leads the way with 70 points ahead of Stuart Easton (59 pts) and Ryuichi Kiyonari (58 pts).