Crescent FIXI Suzuki's John Hopkins battled changeable weather, red flags, crashes and treacherous racing conditions at the third round of the World Superbike Championship at Assen in The Netherlands to record his best finish of the season so far.
Hopkins and the rest of the field had to make a difficult choice at the start of the second race as a damp, but drying track was declared wet for the race - so tyre selection was an important factor. Hopkins and his crew made a decision to use the intermediate tyres in the unpredictable conditions, but unfortunately the track started to dry quickly and the threatened rain never materialised, leaving Hopkins to battle on with a lack of feel and confidence in the tyres and try to get the best result possible. He brought his machine home in 11th place to take his best result so far this season and obtain valuable data for the team to work on.
In the first race Hopkins was well placed to battle for a top-six finish as the race reached just over half-way distance, but a sudden and torrential rainstorm caused the race to be red-flagged. The re-started race was a nine-lap contest in the treacherous conditions and Hopkins was one of many casualties as he slid off his Crescent FIXI Yoshimura-powered GSX-R1000 after only one lap. Fortunately he was uninjured and was able to take his place in the second race.
Team-mate Leon Camier had to pit in the initial race due to tyre degradation and in the re-run second part of the race he was a victim of the conditions and crashed on the sighting lap and was unable to make the re-start. Luckily he didn't cause any further damage to himself on top of the injuries he received from yesterday's huge crash in practice. The second race was less eventful for Camier, as he too chose the intermediate tyres and was also unable to put them to good use. He safely made his way to the finish without too many incidents to claim some valuable championship points and will now aim to get himself fully fit for the next event.
Today's first race was won by Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli on a Ducati, with victory in the second event going to Jonathan Rea onboard his Factory Honda, despite the British rider sustaining a severe finger injury after crashing in the first race. Max Biaggi took over at the head of the Championship standings after former leader Carlos Checa failed to score in the second race.
Crescent FIXI Suzuki will next be in action in Italy when the World Superbike paddock heads to Monza for the fourth round of the season on Sunday May 6th.
John Hopkins - Race 1: DNF, Race 2: 11th:
"The conditions today were very difficult for all of us. I got a decent start in race one, but got bottled in at the first turn and lost a few positions. I began to make my way back up the field and was just getting in touch with the back of the lead group when the rain fell and the race was stopped. Up until then, I had settled into a good rhythm and was feeling confident at the thought of mixing it with the leaders. When the race began again in the wet, I just had no grip at all and, like many others, slipped off on the soaking track. We basically made the wrong decision regarding tyre choice for race two and suffered because of that. It was a gamble that didn't work and I was sliding around, both front and rear, but was determined to bring the bike home and get some points."
Leon Camier - Race 1: DNF, Race 2: 14th:
"For race one, our settings were a bit of a gamble and my tyre was shredded by nine laps. The race was then stopped a few laps later and we all went on full wets. I have no idea why I crashed on the warm-up lap because I was hardly touching the throttle. One minute I was OK and the next minute I was on my backside. We didn't know what tyres to use for race two because although the track was mostly dry, the clouds seemed to be on their way again. I wasn't feeling too confident, so went for what seemed the safe choice - intermediates - but our choice didn't work out because the track dried. The guys on slicks could lap so much quicker and I couldn't do anything about it. All I could do was ride as best I could, not crash and get to the finish line."
Jack Valentine - Team Manager:
"Today was a really tough day at the office, not helped by not having a good wet weather set-up. We never had big grip issues in the wet last year in BSB, but we were definitely missing mechanical grip here today and that's a shame because both John and Leon usually go well in the wet. We made some changes to the bikes for race two but the track dried and our plans went out of the window. Both riders were a bit low on confidence after their earlier crashes so we went for the safe option of intermediate tyres. If we'd chosen slicks, the story might have been very different, but we weren't the only ones to get caught out.
"On a positive note, both John and Leon are happy with the chassis in dry conditions and the recent engine improvements by Yoshimura are definitely heading in the right direction. I'm also happy that John and Leon both brought their bikes home in the second race. It wasn't easy but they knuckled down, crossed the finish line and scored some points.