Tommy Hill signs John Hopkins and Stuart Easton for 2016 MCE British Superbike campaign
2011 Champion Tommy Hill has announced that he has signed former arch rival John Hopkins to his THM ePayMe Yamaha for their debut season in the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship next year.
Hill recently announced details of his new team as he returns to the Championship, with title sponsor ePayMe and fully-supported by Yamaha, the manufacturer that has been synonymous with Hill’s own racing career.
The pair confirmed the new partnership on the grid at Brands Hatch – the place where the former rivals took the battle for the 2011 title all the way down to the wire in the closest ever title-decider in history. Hill claimed the crown after an incredible final race of the season at the Kent circuit. The pair had fought for supremacy throughout the race to cross the finish line with just 0.006s between them for the title in what was billed as ‘The race of the decade’.
America’s Hopkins remains one of the most experienced riders on the grid having celebrated podium finishes in the MotoGP World Championship during his career and has secured race wins in MCE BSB in his quest for title victory.
Hopkins said: “Honestly I couldn’t be more excited, to be able to start the 2016 season on a Yamaha after seeing what it was capable of this year. Honestly for years, I mean years now, seeing the Yamaha Superbike out on track, I have always just thought in the back of my mind that it was a bike that would really sort my riding style. This new Yamaha R1 is truly something special and honestly I am so excited to just get my first chance to ride it and give it a go.
“I think this is possibly going to be one of the first times in my career bar none that I will have one of the most competitive machines out in the field and with that in mind I am going to do everything myself I possibly can, mentally and physically to come back and try and win this Championship. After 2011 things happened the way it did and ironically now it did!
“If someone had said to me then that I would be riding for Tommy Hill’s team I would have said no way! At that moment in time I saw red; I was happy for him as he put in a lot of work and he did win it fair and square. I am really happy and pleased with today’s news because at the end of the day it makes a really good story – racers are a really tight knit community and I am really happy for Tommy that he has got this opportunity to run such a great team. I am going to be out there trying to win that championship for us!”
Tommy Hill, Team Owner said: “I am really happy to confirm John Hopkins as part of the THM ePayMe Yamaha team next year. We have secured a great two rider line-up for next season and I believe that both riders have huge potential. We will be announcing our second rider very soon.
“It’s particularly poignant to announce John here at Brands Hatch today because this is the scene of the most memorable race of both our careers and is still the most talked about race in MCE BSB history.
“We have seen what a great package the Yamaha has been in the championship this season with SMR and we have no doubt that both riders will be ready to deliver strong performances for the team in our debut year in 2016.”
Later this week Stuart Easton signed on to join Hopkins at THM ePayMe Yamaha team.
Easton delivered one of his strongest campaigns to date this year, scoring a victory at Oulton Park and a further three podium finishes to put himself in a strong position to be in the top six for the end of season Showdown to fight for the title. The Scottish contender however was then sidelined through injury after a crash at Brands Hatch in July and despite heroic efforts to return, he was unable to complete the season.
The double British Supersport champion is now ready to build on his strong performances in 2016 and is relishing a return to the manufacturer with whom he celebrated his most recent Supersport title victory in 2013.
Easton said: “I am really happy to have joined the THM ePayMe Yamaha team for next season. I have had some great races with Tommy on track, especially two that stand out at Oulton Park, and we have also been team-mates before so it is exciting and surreal to be working together like this in 2016.
“The last time I rode a Yamaha was when I won the British Supersport Championship for them in 2013 and so I have some great memories, it might have been a different class but it was still a great bike and I can’t wait to test the new YZF-R1. Everybody has talked about what a great Superbike it is, and although I haven’t ridden it yet, we have seen how strong it was with Josh Brookes onboard this season so full credit to him and the team.
“I was unlucky to have ended this season with the injury, but I feel confident about next season and the new challenge. Lots of people say you are as good as your last race and the last races I didwhen I was fully fit before my crash and was subsequently injured, I finished in second place twice at Knockhill so that bodes well! I feel like this season I have been riding as well as I have ever done and so next year is another big opportunity for me and I feel that myself, Hopper and Tommy all have points to prove on different levels and we can’t wait to get started.”
Team owner Tommy Hill commented: “I am delighted to have signed Stuart Easton to the new THM ePayMe Yamaha team for 2016. I have rated Stuart as a rider for many years; I rode with him as a team-mate and really feel he is more than capable of pushing for more race wins in 2016 given the right package and a team to support him. I have been talking closely with the SMR team who have worked with Stuart in the past; I feel his riding style will really match the characteristics of the new YZF-R1. It’s an exciting time with our two new signings and I hope that we can all have a great season together.”
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