John Hopkins became the first American to win a British Superbike race, taking a victory at Oulton Park on May 2 for the Crescent Suzuki squad. The California native secured the historic victory after having already made some history during the first race of the doubleheader, his second-place finish the first-ever podium by an American in the series.
The Hopkins’ win isn’t just notable because of his nationality, it’s the first time Hopper has found the top of the podium in 10 years. The GSX-R1000 pilot is also competing on new circuits, many of which he is learning for the first time – including Oulton Park. In a press announcement from the Samsung Crescent Racing team, Hopkins reflected on the significance of the Oulton Park round:
“That was good, really good. It’s an awesome track, I really enjoyed riding here, but as well what great fan support! It’s been 11 years since I last won a race – that and all that’s happened to me over the past few years meant that this was one emotional win. I was definitely teary-eyed on the podium. I couldn’t be happier.
“The racing, as before at Brands Hatch, was intense; there was carnage at times. But with my motocross background I can endure that. The first race went well and I started well and went with the leaders. At the end of the race I got into second and I had to ride for the finish at that point, but that’s never a satisfying feeling.
Thanks to a strong finish in Race 2, Hopkins was able to bust out his standard post-race celebration – a stand-up wheelie.
“So I knew I wanted to win the second race. Curiously that race didn’t go so well early on and I dropped back after the start. I regrouped but still had a lot of work to do to catch the two leaders, so I was definitely the man who gained the most when one of them crashed bringing out the pace car. Even after that it came down to a three-way battle. But the bike felt so good I knew the win was possible. I took the lead with two laps to go and never looked back. A big thank you to the crew for this weekend. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Spending most of the past decade laboring in MotoGP after early success in AMA Superbike, Hopkins saw his Grand Prix career dissolve when Kawasaki withdrew from the series after the 2008 season. Short stints in World Superbike and AMA Superbike didn’t amount to much, as he struggled with injuries. Hopkins, whose parents are both British-born, found himself bound for the British Superbike series for 2011 to revamp his road racing career.
The Anglo-American rider has a Grand Prix return in his sights, and a successful BSB title run would be a valuable stepping stone (Hopkins already scored a surprise GP wild card ride at Jerez, replacing the injured Alvaro Bautista). With his Oulton Park success, Hopkins now sits fourth in the series and 14 points adrift of the lead rider, HM Plant Honda’s Shane Byrne.
Read more on Hopkins, including his British Superbike goals, MotoGP plans and possible USGP wild cards, in MotoUSA’s exclusive pre-season John Hopkins Interview.