John Hopkins has given himself a great chance to take the initiative in the 2011 BSB title battle after qualifying second at Thruxton, with series leader Shane Byrne crashing out.
The Crescent Suzuki rider showed once again that he's a quick learner as he immediately troubled the top of the timesheets in free practice, despite having never raced at the track before.
In the end, Hopkins was only denied his maiden BSB pole position by 0.016s, with Alex Lowes snatching the coveted position on his MSS Colchester Kawasaki debut. Despite missing out on pole though, 'Hopper' was satisfied with his first taste of Thruxton.
“It’s been an interesting weekend so far, learning the track from scratch. This is another one where you can’t hurry the learning process. You must ride so hard here, like flat out in fifth gear, when cranked to the edge of the tyre – with the track dropping away – so it’s critical to have a good understanding of what’s coming and a good feel for what’s going on.”
Hopkins' maturity once again impressed Team Manager Jack Valentine, who is fully aware of the opportunity presenting them tomorrow.
“Hopper has chipped away at the job all weekend and as ever he’s overcome every hurdle and put himself in one of the strongest positions for tomorrow’s first race. The races are very much going to be about tyre management, saving the best until last, but I’m sure that Hopper will be on top of the situation. There is an opportunity here to grab the Championship lead and build up some very good points and we’ll look to do that, but we know the Championship is long and there’s the ‘reset’ when we get to the Showdown phase, so we’re taking each step as it comes.”
With Hopkins starting race one second and Byrne all the way down in 33rd, it will be fascinating to see who leads the championship when the chequered flag falls tomorrow.