John Hopkins is looking forward to this weekend's high-stakes BSB meeting at Brands Hatch as the outcome of the 2011 Championship is decided. The American has won three of the four races since the Showdown started and leads Tommy Hill by eight points going into this weekend's triple-header.
But with 75 points still available, Hopkins knows that he must retain the attacking approach that has given him the championship lead, and believes he has the equipment for the job.
“I’m really keen to get started into the weekend. The points-gap that I have is a great advantage but not really a comfort. The strategy still has to be ‘race to win’ as anything less and we won’t have the Championship, but I’m confident we can do just that. The Samsung Crescent Suzuki has a great set-up, I love riding it and with the data we took from our previous visit to the GP circuit – together with the track knowledge I gained – it puts us in a strong position coming in.”
It has been well documented that Hopkins has been battling with a finger injury for the second half of the year but the 28 year old will not let it slow him down.
“My injured finger gets stronger each day and I don’t expect it to be a problem. Again I’ll have to manage it – and with three races there’ll be a lot of work to do – but I think we proved at Donington Park and Silverstone that it’s not affecting my racing. There’s mental pressure as well, but it’s nothing new to me; nothing I can’t deal with. The job stays the same: go for the holeshot, take the lead and stay out of trouble. Get the win. It’s racing. I love it!”
Teammate Jon Kirkham also has a title in his sights as he looks to secure the BSB Riders Cup as the highest ranked rider outside of the showdown. The Derby rider leads Michael Rutter and Peter Hickman by 36 points and while he looks to retain that advantage, he is also hoping to assist Hopkins' championship bid.
“I’m really looking forward to the weekend. I love the circuit and so after having a bad time here earlier in the year I’ll be going all-out to put in the best performance and finish the year on a high. I’ve got the bike the way I like it now so I’m aiming to be there in the leading pack again. I want to get the points to make the Riders’ Cup mine, but if along the way my being in there helps John’s Championship, then so much the better.”
Samsung Crescent Suzuki team manager Jack Valentine is fully aware how important this weekend is to his squad and wants his riders to stick to their natural approach.
“Showdown time! Here we are again – just as last year so let’s hope we can finish the job this time. As a team we’re preparing the way we always do – everything 100% and everything sorted so we give our riders everything they need to do the job.”
“With just eight points in the lead we’re nowhere near applying tactics; we’re in the same boat as everyone and we have to win races to win the Championship. Maybe if we get a win in the first race on Saturday we might be able to play tactical on Sunday, but we know it’s when you start being too clever, or start relaxing – that’s when the problems come. For the riders, they prefer to race to win, it’s probably the safest strategy.”
“Hopper’s a great racer in any case. He’s shown all season long that he can respond to challenges and I don’t see anything changing this weekend. Business as usual for him. JK’s had a brilliant end to the year. Mid-season it got away from him for a bit, but since Cadwell Park he’s been brilliant, he’s on the pace all-race; and his race craft improves with every battle. His presence in the top-five could yet make every difference to the Championship outcome. Everything is readied: the riders, the bikes; the team. Let’s race!”
The crucial qualifying session will take place on Saturday at 13:05 ahead the first race of the weekend at 16:20. Whatever happens, the title battle will decided on Sunday with the final two races scheduled for 12:35 and 16:25. The Checkered Flag will have full coverage throughout the weekend.