Samsung Crescent Racing's John Hopkins is confident of challenging for a podium finish after qualifying in third for Monday's opening British Superbike race at Oulton Park.
The Swan Yamaha duo of Tommy Hill and Michael Laverty had dominated the weekend's running, and locked out the first two positions on the grid for race one, but Hopkins showed his class to snatch third from Loris Baz in the final seconds of qualifying.
On his first visit to the Cheshire circuit, the American admitted he had taken a while to get to grips with the track in practice, but praised the team for the progress that he made yesterday.
“We’ve been working steadily this weekend, building up knowledge and pace. There’s no question this is a tough track to learn and while you can get up to a reasonable pace quite quickly, the last one-and-a-half seconds is trickier – you start to run into little problems. So I finished yesterday not that high up. But I sat down with my crew and I had a good think on the racing lines overnight and that made a difference, we made a big step-up this morning.” “When it came to qualifying this afternoon the mechanics had improved the set-up again and everything came together, so I was able to push really hard right to the end – and get that front row position. So I’m really happy, I’m in a good position to build on that fifth place from Brands Hatch. There’s even a chance I can stick it on the podium!”
Jon Kirkham's weekend took a turn for the worse in Sunday's final free practice session when an accident forced the team to rebuild the GSX-R1000 in time for qualifying. The Derby rider was then left frustrated after a late set-up change cost him a place in the top ten shootout.
“I’m gutted, the crew worked wonders to have my bike ready for qualifying and it went well for Q1. Then I elected to make a small change for Q2 that I thought would help. But it made the bike worse and with higher wind speeds I was struggling to feel comfortable on the bike. I could have come in and changed it, but I thought if I persisted it might come good. I was only two-tenths slower than in Q1, but with the others all going a little faster that was enough to drop me out of the final qualifier.“So I don’t have the best starting position for tomorrow, but I know I have top-ten lap speed, maybe even top-five, so there’s a lot of potential to improve on my starting position – given a fair bit of hard work!”