After almost seven weeks away from the racetrack, John Hopkins will make his racing return aboard Kawasaki's Ninja ZX-RR at this weekend's Czech Republic Grand Prix at Brno.
The 25-year-old Anglo-American was forced to sit out the last three races, including
his home Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, as a result of fractures to his left leg sustained in a high-speed qualifying crash ahead of the Dutch TT at Assen almost seven weeks ago.
Hopkins has been working hard over the past month, embarking on a punishing rehabilitation and training schedule as soon as he was able to walk on his injured leg, in order to ensure he is back to full fitness for his return to racing in the Czech Republic.
"I'm feeling pretty good now, and I'm anxious to get back on track. I've now got full movement back in the injured knee and it's been fine during my training regime up to now. I don't think it's going to cause me any problems on the bike, but it's been almost seven weeks since I've thrown a leg over the Ninja ZX-RR, so I won't know for sure until we start free practice on Friday”, he said. “Brno is a track I like a lot, and I believe it's the MotoGP track I've ridden most frequently in my career, which means I know the place like the back of my hand. Also, our Bridgestone tyres work well at this track, and this combined with the new parts that Kawasaki are bringing to the Czech Grand Prix means we've got some positive things to work with. Even though the rehab at home with family and friends has been enjoyable, I am really looking forward to seeing the team, getting back on the bike and finding again the total mental focus necessary for the best possible result this weekend."
Kawasaki teammate, Anthony West, has also used the three-week summer break to work on his fitness back home on Australia's Gold Coast, but he's also used the time away from the pressures of the racetrack to regroup after a difficult first half of the season.
The 27-year-old Australian has put the disappointment of earlier races behind him and he heads back to Europe determined to kick-start the second half of the season with a strong performance aboard his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-RR at Brno.
"After a difficult first half of the season, it's been good to have the chance to get home to the family in Australia and just kick back for a bit. The schedule during the first half of the year has been hectic and it's been difficult to step back and assess where we're at with the bike and to look objectively at some of the problems we've been having. This time away from the pressures of the racetrack has been pretty short, but it has allowed me to think things through and the conclusion is that the results during the first half of the year are well below what I'm capable of”, he admitted. “I know that I can finish higher up the order on the Ninja ZX-RR, and we've seen this a couple of times already, but I need to be finishing in the top ten more consistently during the second half of the season. The break has been an ideal opportunity to recharge the batteries, and I'm heading back to Europe determined to finish the second part of the season with better results, starting this weekend in Brno."
But while Kawasaki's MotoGP pilots have both enjoyed time away from the racetrack during the annual summer break, the same is not true of Kawasaki's race engineers in Japan. Kawasaki's race department have worked through the break to continue the development of an evolution version of the Ninja ZX-RR engine that both Hopkins and West will ride for the first time at Brno.