Former MotoGP star John Hopkins is joining the Lloyds British Moto Rapido Ducati squad for the remainder of the 2015 season.
Hopkins has filled in for the injured Jakub Smrz for the last two rounds and yesterday the team announced that the American’s impressive performances had done enough to earn the ride for the rest of the season, with the outfit deciding to part company with Smrz with immediate effect.
Hopkins said: “I have definitely been enjoying myself with the team and there is a great atmosphere; for me it has been fantastic to come in straight away and show what we are capable of. I haven’t enjoyed myself on a bike this much in a long time and this opportunity is what I have been waiting for, especially after the frustrating start of the year when I had to watch everyone else testing and racing.
“I bided my time and it has paid off because I wanted to come back with a team and package that I knew had the potential to be at the front and I think everything happens for a reason. I can’t deny that I feel bad for Kuba because he is a great rider and I am sure he will be back soon, but I had to grasp this opportunity and I couldn’t give it up.
“It is amazing to think where we are already; I have had to take a step back and breathe to just look and appreciate how much progress has been made already. I have felt instantly at home with the feel of the throttle and the chassis which is incredible – I think that comes down to the characteristics feeling very similar to how the GP bikes were that I spent most of my career on.”
A disappointed Smrz handled the news with dignity. He said: “Racing does not always go the direction you want and I understand and respect the decision of the team. It´s been a hard start to the season and very unlucky for me and the team. In the moment when things started to work perfectly and I could finally fight for podiums, I got injured.
“Of course I’m not happy to finish now and that it’s not me to benefit from the hard development work we´ve done, but I wish good luck to Moto Rapido and John. Now I will continue my fitness preparation and hopefully I can be back on a race bike soon.”
Team Owner Steve Moore commented: “Last weekend we made more steps forward with the bike and despite the result we have to consider Thruxton a success. We’re not in a championship battle so the results are not as important as the progress, although we are keen to chalk up the first win soon.
“I can confirm that John will ride for the team for the remainder of the season and is now signed as our permanent rider. Expanding the team to a two rider effort isn’t possible; we simply don’t have the resources to properly staff and run two riders without compromising the effort and attention to detail that I’m sure has pushed the team forward. To overstretch would be a big mistake and wouldn’t be professional or fair to either rider.
“Personally it isn’t an easy decision to replace Kuba, but with his injury still in question and the momentum we have with John I have to do what is the best for the team, sponsors and Ducati. I’ve spoken to Kuba and he remains professional, which I thank and respect him for. It’s important to recognise the amazing development work that he has done with the Ducati. The situation doesn’t do him any justice especially as the bike was considerably improved prior to the Snetterton round and he just didn’t get a chance to display his potential on the bike John is now riding. I am sure he would be a front running rider too and if we had the opportunity to expand the team there would be no question about having him ride.
“The remainder of the season and 2016 is what we have to concentrate on now, and my job is to make the decisions that will give us the best chance of success.”