Samsung Crescent Racing had a bittersweet day as the grid was determined for the first race of the 2011 British Superbike Championship.
BSB rookie Jon Kirkham produced a stunning performance for the Suzuki-powered team to take seventh on the grid, but former MotoGP star John Hopkins suffered a difficult introduction to the series, as he could do no better than 11th.
Kirkham had shown promise earlier in the weekend, having set the sixth fastest time in final practice, but the Derby rider admitted he was hoping for even better.
“I’m very pleased with that; qualifying’s not gone too bad at all. I was hoping for a front row and I’d taken the strategy of using two out-laps then pushing for a fast one – after which we could expect the tyre to be done. And that strategy went well right up to Clearways on the fast-lap when it started spinning-up on the rear – and that’s all it takes around here to miss out on the time you need. One small difference…”
“That aside, I have to be very happy; we’ve stuck with our strategy from pre-season – ‘steady away…’ that’s almost our motto now. So for tomorrow I want to come away with two solid results. It’s a long season so there’s no need for big risks; I’ll look to make a clean start and stay out of trouble.”
Hopkins endured a frustrating afternoon, missing out on Q3 by just 0.042s, leaving the American on the third row of the grid for race one.
But 'Hopper' remained positive ahead of the Easter Monday double header, and expects the GZX-R1000's race performance to help him move forward.
“Today was good and bad. We did a good morning’s work setting consistently fast lap times – in the 45s – on used tyres, so we know we can run a good race pace.”
“In qualifying, Q1 went well and I got a good time, but in that second session I just started rushing the corners too much, I made a lot of mistakes and didn’t set the lap times I should have. I should have relaxed a bit and worked harder on the getting out of the turns. So I’ve given myself more work for tomorrow than I would like to have, but I’m a good starter so I’ll hopefully get away well and push hard for that busy first lap, make up as many places as I can; and not let anyone get away!”
Hopkins did go third fastest in Monday morning's warm-up session, with Kirkham sixth, and Team Manager Jack Valentine is confident the team will be challenging at the front of the field.
“Obviously I’m very, very pleased for JK. We’ve set realistic goals for him all along and he’s achieved all of these and more. If he can turn his qualifying into two top-six finishes tomorrow then we’ll be very happy.”
“For Hopper, it’s been a tough afternoon and he’s certainly getting to experience just how competitive BSB can be. We know he has top-five speed though, so he’ll be looking to make a strong start tomorrow and hopefully will get onto the tail of the lead group and see where he can go from there.”