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Suzuki line Hopkins up as a substitute

Suzuki line Hopkins up as a substitute

The American, who rode in MotoGP for seven seasons until 2008, will attend the Qatar Test with the Rizla Suzuki team and will be a back-up rider for Álvaro Bautista in 2011.

Álvaro Bautista’s position as Rizla Suzuki’s sole rider in 2011 has required Team Manager Paul Denning to form a contingency plan for the season, namely that of preparing a ‘back-up’ rider should the Spaniard be unable to compete in any of the 18 World Championship rounds this year.

The man selected for the role is John Hopkins, the American who rode with the factory Suzuki team for five seasons and finished fourth in the World Championship in his last campaign with them in 2007.

Hopkins, who has been signed for the Crescent Suzuki team in British Superbikes this year – the team run by Denning – will be present at the Qatar Test from March 13th-14th, where he will ride the GSV-R in a bid to prepare himself for the eventuality of being called upon during the season.

“John won’t be doing the full Test in Qatar, he will be doing some riding on the bike to help us out with some PR and filming work. That will give him the opportunity to do some laps and get a feel for the bike, and he will be there at the Test in case we need him,” Denning explained to “We’re not sure whether we’re going to need him during the Test or not.”

Further explaining the plan to have Hopkins on standby throughout the season, Denning continued: “With only one rider we’ve got to think carefully about a back-up plan, in case something goes wrong. We’re obviously very much hoping that we don’t have to call on it at any point, because we’re putting everything behind Álvaro and that’s the priority. But we have an obligation to Suzuki, to Rizla and to all the team’s partners to be at all the races so we do need to have a plan.”

He added: “John is available, he’s got experience and he’s fit and focused, and so he would seem to be the right man to do that job.”

And what of the prospect of seeing Hopkins as a second Suzuki rider on the grid this season in a wild card capacity?

“There are no plans like that at the moment. Should something develop it could be considered, but at the moment it’s not in the plan,” concluded Denning.

MotoGP, 2011, Rizla Suzuki MotoGP

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