Hopkins rode for the Stiggy Motorsports World Superbike team briefly last season before injuries took him out of action.
Former factory Suzuki and Kawasaki MotoGP racer John Hopkins will officially race the entire American Superbike Series on a Suzuki GSX-R1000 this year for M4 Monster Suzuki, which is owned by Team Hammer. It was announced in a release here January 30 that Hopkins will ride alongside Colombian Martin Cardenas, who has had success for the Hammer squad the past two seasons in the Daytona SportBike class and re-signed to race an M4 Suzuki GSX-R600 for a third.
This signing reunites Hopkins with Team Hammer and its owner John Ulrich, who owns and runs the M4 Monster Suzuki-sponsored team, the same team which gave Hopkins his professional racing birth nearly a decade ago. Called Valvoline Suzuki at the time, Hopkins won the 2000 AMA 750cc Supersport and 2001 AMA Formula Xtreme titles for the team before heading off to the MotoGP world for the WCM Red Bull Yamaha team. From there he joined the factory Suzuki squad at the age of 19, where he stayed for five years before joining Kawasaki in 2008. Hopkins’ GP career is highlighted by a pole position, four podiums, several race fastest laps and a best overall finish of fourth in the championship in ‘07.
Hopkins brings with him long-time personal sponsor Monster Energy drink, which is a new addition to the M4 Suzuki team for 2010. It was originally thought the California native would test ride and do wildcard GPs for an upstart Grand Prix team, in
Hopkins aboard the factory Kawasaki he rode in MotoGP in 2008. He spent five years with Suzuki prior to his short stint with Team Green.
which he was in talks, but the prospect of racing a full season on completive equipment won the 26-year-old over. With the new rules and spec tires leveling the playing field greatly, expect Hopkins to be on a motorcycle on par with anything in the field this year. It’s all up to the journeyman racer to do the rest. No doubt filled with talent, an injury-free season could be exactly what Hopkins needs to rebound from his recent bad luck the past few seasons – be it uncompetitive equipment or injuries, Hopkins hasn’t had an easy run of it.
Hopkins recently rode his M4 Suzuki GSX-R1000 at a local trackday in an effort to get as much seat-time as possible on the AMA-spec Superbike. His first official AMA test will be this coming week at California Speedway.
“I’m really excited to be working with the team and (team owner) John Ulrich again,” Hopkins said in the release. “We had a lot of success when I raced with them at the beginning of my career and I’d like to thank Monster, M4 and all the rest of our sponsors for making it happen. I’m also happy to be back on a Suzuki motorcycle again. I’m feeling healthier than I have in a long time. I think my fitness level is up there with the way it was in 2007 and I’m looking forward to getting out there on the track and enjoying racing again. I have the chance to ride the bike a little bit today at a Fastrack Riders track day at Fontana and I’m really pleased. It is just a shakedown test but the bike feels really comfortable to me. My goals are to learn the bike and the tracks, have a healthy season, perform to the best of my ability, and see where that leaves us in the championship. I’m really happy to have a ride with a great team and be healthy again and I’m looking forward to having a good season.”
Equally as excited, team owner John Ulrich added: “I have full confidence in John Hopkins and his abilities. I really enjoyed working with John before, and I’m really looking forward to working with him again. There is no doubt in my mind that he knows how to ride a motorcycle, and now at age 26 he’s got seven years of Grand Prix experience under his belt. With seven AMA Pro Racing Daytona SportBike race wins in 2009, Martin Cardenas has already demonstrated the potential created by putting a great rider with Grand Prix experience on a competitive motorcycle built by the Team Hammer crew in Alabama, and we’re looking forward to creating the same situation with John. I am proud to welcome John Hopkins and his family back to the AMA Pro paddock and I am very excited to be fielding John in the AMA Pro Racing National Guard American Superbike Championship. With the combination of Martin Cardenas and John Hopkins on M4 Suzukis, we have an exciting opportunity to make great things happen in 2010.”
Some big name riders are exactly what AMA Pro Racing needs and John Hopkins is definitely a step in the right direction. Let us know what you think by leaving comments below. Is it too little too late or a glimmer of hope?