Thursday, July 12, 2007

John Hopkins nudges a very big boulder down a very long hill

With last year's MotoGP silly season rather tame, it's only fair that this year's game of rider merry-go-round should start early and with a bang.

That bang is the move of John Hopkins from Suzuki to Kawasaki, which is expected to be officially confirmed this weekend at the Sachsenring. Although this may seem like an odd move for the extremely fast American, given the comparative performances of the two Japanese manufacturers, it seems as though money was the motivating factor. As detailed by the blogosphere's top MotoGP writer Kropotkin, Kawasaki feel, perhaps rightly, that their bike is far better than it appears, and simply needs some kick-ass riders to help it achieve its potential. They don't come much more kick-ass than Hopper, who I firmly believe is the quickest of the four Americans in MotoGP.

If Hopkins wanted a change, and didn't want to be on a slower bike, his options were rather thin. He could hope to replace his countryman Colin Edwards at Yamaha, but would then be alongside Valentino Rossi, surely not an ideal situation. He could aim for Loris Capirossi's seat at Ducati. Or he could go to the green team. I'm guessing that Ducati couldn't satisfy his financial demands, so he went green. When all the facts are considered, what seems to be a move backwards, or at best sideways, actually could be very shrewd.

Another move that's looking likely, according to Motorcycle News, is Marco Melandri to Ducati. Melandri's performance on the Gresini Honda this year has been even more underwhelming than that of Nicky Hayden, and it's clear that the RC212V is not the bike to be on at the moment. Ducati are clearly tired of Loris Capirossi, who has been unable to adapt to the new bike, but would love to have at least one Italian on the team.

That leaves Capirossi and one Kawasaki rider looking for a ride, with seats open at Suzuki and Gresini Honda. How this will play out is now open to pure speculation.

  • Will James Toseland revise his demand for a factory ride in order to stay in the Honda fold on the Gresini bike?
  • Will Suzuki rush Ben Spies into their MotoGP program?
  • Will either or both Kawasaki and Suzuki run a third bike next year? If so, will it be in-house or with a satellite team, and who will the rider be?
  • Will Roger Lee Hayden's wildcard ride at Laguna Seca in two weeks be good enough to bag that potential third Kawasaki seat?
  • Where will unemployed senior riders Loris Capirossi and Colin Edwards end up? Could we see Colin back in World Superbike, taking James Toseland's seat at Ten Kate Honda? Or will he be moved within the Yamaha organization to the Tech 3 team (unlikely unless they ditch the Dunlop tyres)?
It's all fun speculation for right now, but who doesn't love a lively silly season?

1 comment:

Mad said...

I too was suprised to see Hopkins go to Kawasaki and money or no money I think he may have been better off holding out for a Yamaha or Honda ride. If no such ride was available then his current seat at Suzuki is the best option. I guess you're right the most likely reasons for his move are financial.

I'm kind of torn on this subject as I love Kawasaki and Hopkins is possibly my favourite rider so I'd love nothing more to see a Kawasaki mounted Hoppo crush all oppsition BUT I suspect that even though the Kwaks are improving that they won't be contesting the championship next year so I'd like to see Hopins on the fastest bike possible.

Oh and Hoppo fastest yank? I sometimes suspect that on a Yam he'd be as fast as Rossi!