American John Hopkins ended his Suzuki career in style today when he claimed third place in his last race for the Japanese factory.
Hopkins will begin his new career on Tuesday when he makes his debut on Kawasaki’s factory ZX-RR, but he signed off in superb fashion when he claimed his fourth podium of the season.
Starting from seventh on the grid, Hopkins made a brilliant start and found himself tucked in behind Repsol Honda duo Nicky Hayden. Dani Pedrosa, and early leader Casey Stoner.
He passed compatriot Hayden on lap four with a clinical overtake at turn two, but he’d already lost crucial ground on Pedrosa and Stoner, who were breaking clear at the front with new lap record pace.
Once he’d disposed of Hayden he couldn’t get close to the leading two, and eventually had to settled for a lonely ride to third place.
But he said: “The ultimate goal today was to go out and get on the podium whether it be the top step, second or third. Basically Suzuki has given me a life in MotoGP. It’s made my career and made it what it is today. So I can’t thank them enough. It’s an emotional time right now. It’s the last race with them after five years, so it’s been great. It’s a great, and unbelievable moment for me. I just can’t stop thanking Suzuki enough for all they’ve ever done for me. It’s emotional, but it’s the next step in my career and it’s just time to take that.”
Hopkins’ podium secured him fourth in the world championship as he edged out Marco Melandri, who finished fourth. Italian Melandri spent too long trying to pass Nicky Hayden and by the time he did finally move by the Repsol Honda rider on lap 22, Hopkins was long gone.
“I’m definitely going to have my hands full with Suzuki next year. They’re definitely coming on strong. It was a lonely race. It was more like racing the clock. But we did the best we could. Knock on wood again but I got a really good start. I came from the third row and just got behind both of the Hondas right away and got around Nicky as soon as possible and just tried to break away and tried to make the gap a little closer towards Casey and Dani. But it just wasn’t an option today.”