John Hopkins tops opening day at Donington BSB
American John Hopkins out-gunned the leading trio in the chase for this year’s MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship with a scorching final lap in free practice ahead of Sunday’s ninth round at Donington Park.
The Tyco Suzuki rider, a double winner at the Leicestershire circuit in 2011, was full of determination as he showed the qualities that made him a former MotoGP podium finisher with a scorching lap of 1m 29.717s.
Hopkins said: “It’s been a long time coming! I’m just excited we’ve gone well today. The conditions have been good and the bike feels really good. It’s never easy but I felt comfortable today. I was actually surprised at how quick the lap time was coming as I wasn’t stressed and going balls out for one lap – so far it is so good.”
Shane “Shakey” Byrne had set the pace initially in the second session, snatching the position from Buildbase BMW’s Ryuichi Kiyonari as the pair continue their ‘War for Four’ MCE BSB titles. The pair have already qualified for the Showdown and they remained ahead of Josh Brookes on the Milwaukee Yamaha in fourth place.
Brookes said: “Today has not been ideal but there are a couple of reasons for that. I have had to change my gearing so I am not on the rev limiter for so long. We have tried a set-up this morning and I didn’t like it. It was good on paper, but on track it didn’t work so we had to go in a different direction using a different gear pattern. It has taken me a bit of time to ride the correct way to make the best of those changes, because you want to ride a certain way, but because of the nature of the track here you spend more time on the edge of the tyre at a higher RPM.
“We have made our way back again with the setting this afternoon and it is better for the bike and the potential appears to be there. We have overlaid the data and I need to make some changes tomorrow. For instance I am braking too late and then carrying too much speed into the corner and then I lose speed on the way out. I just have to make some more changes and adjust the way I am riding. It is a mixture of the two because at the moment I am being more aggressive than I should be. At the test here at the start of the year with no racing element we built up slowly, you don’t have that ‘we have to go hard’ and that triggers the stab the brake action. That’s essentially where I can improve but we are looking at what we can do to make the bike at its optimum.”
Quattro Plant Kawasaki rider’s Dan Linfoot was fifth fastest as he bids to secure his position in the Showdown following the two crucial races on Sunday. His nearest rival Chris Walker, who currently lies sixth in the overall standings, was 13th fastest for the Lloyds British GBmoto Kawasaki team.
Scot Stuart Easton still hopes he can close the 34 points deficit he has on Walker to make the cut for the Showdown. The second Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki rider was seventh fastest today.
Cumbrian James Ellison was back on track after missing out on the races at Cadwell Park as he returns from injury, setting the 16th fastest time on his Lloyds British GBmoto Kawasaki.
Josh Waters put very few laps in and could only manage the 25th quickest time, obviously some sort of problems there for the Tyco Suzuki man.