On a weekend where John Hopkins maintained his championship challenge, Jon Kirkham was the toast of the Samsung Crescent Racing garage after claiming his first BSB victory at Croft.
The Derby rider made the breakthrough in race one after mastering the tricky conditions to lead home a Crescent Suzuki 1-2, made all the more impressive by the fact he had started on the fourth row. Kirkham was brought back down to earth in race two though after a collision with Michael Laverty ended his participation on the first lap.
But the 26-year-old wouldn't let the incident dampen his special day, and added later on that he was as surprised as anyone with his stunning victory.
“I really didn't expect that race one win, I don't even like those conditions, although being a smooth rider I do tend to get good results from them. I felt very settled immediately and I remember passing six riders in one lap. But I could see Hopper and Mason had got away so it was a huge benefit to me when the pace car came out. When I took the lead I could barely believe it. Then Hopper came back by, but I could sense I had the better grip – from the slick rear – to take the win. Even now I don't think it's sunk in – I've won a BSB race!”
“There's not much I can say about race two. I was still buzzing from the race one win and so pumped to be on pole again. I didn't get the best start so I was in fourth place as I rode through Sunny Out when I was hit and crashed out. Both bikes landed on me so I feel pretty beaten up, but luckily no broken bones. It's a shame as I was looking to collect more points and climb further into the top-six (I was fifth in the standings after race one – Hopper was championship leader!) but there's always next time.”
John Hopkins continued his seamless transition into British Superbikes with two more podium finishes. The American qualified ninth on his first visit to the North Yorkshire circuit but ran at the front of both races, claiming two more podium finishes.
The deployment of the safety car cost him a probable win in race one after he and Gary Mason had established a comfortable lead, but Hopkins still brought the GSX-R1000 home in a safe second.
Shane 'Shakey' Byrne was a dominant winner in race two and Hopkins took part in a fierce battle for the podium positions with Stuart Easton and Josh Brookes. The Kawasaki rider eventually claimed second but 'Hopper' held off Brookes to take the final podium position.
“I've got to be happy with today” added Hopkins. “It started well when I went fastest in warm-up. In race one I chose to run tyres I'd never run before – the Pirelli intermediates – and they proved great, I found a lot of confidence in them. I got up to the pointy end and we'd built up a good lead only for the safety car to come out. As a racer I wasn't too happy to be passed after that, but seeing as it was my team-mate JK then on a personal level that was awesome, he really deserved that race. I didn't have the grip to pass him back so by the end I was riding for the points.”
“Race two didn't work out so well, I was struggling for rear wheel grip, so I did what I could and was happy to come away with another podium. Importantly I've come away with second place in the points table, just three points off the lead, with a stack more podium points – I'm joint-leading the table there. So for me, a very good day!”
Hopkins will be faced with another new circuit to learn when the BSB moves to Thruxton on the 28th-30th May, and he will go there trailing Byrne in the championship by just three points with Kirkham also nicely placed inside the top six.