Lloyds British Moto Rapido Ducati enjoyed its best ever weekend at the 2015 MCE British Superbike Championship finale at Brands Hatch (16/18 October). With eighth, fourth and an incredible first podium for the Ducati Panigale, it has been a fantastic way to round off a remarkable season for the team.
It was, in fact, the first race of the triple-header in which Hopper made the breakthrough. Having secured six in a tricky qualifying that saw mixed conditions in the crucial top ten shoot-out, the #15 Ducati blasted off the line and into the mix right at the front. John found himself latched onto the back of the battling championship protagonists Shane Byrne and Josh Brookes, and as the two tussled to decide the 2015 BSB title, Hopkins ensured he didn’t affect the result and sat comfortably behind them. Hopper had to keep one eye on Iddon behind, but was able to manage his third place for the middle phase of the race.
Once Brookes made it through and into an unassailable lead Hopper pushed on again to close the gap to Byrne. Despite struggling with grip he moved to within 0.2s of the Kawasaki, but the chequered flag came out before he could mount a charge for second position.
It was still a sensational first podium for the Ducati Panigale, which has been a staple feature at the front of the BSB field since Hopkins joined the Lloyds British Moto Rapido squad at mid-season. True to form, Sunday’s final two encounters also featured the Ducati Panigale R superbike in the fight at the front.
The first of the day’s races appeared to be a repeat performance as Hopkins once again slotted into third behind Brookes and Byrne. This time around, however, Hopkins came under fire from a fierce chasing pack, and he was pipped by Michael Laverty with just a few laps to go. As he began to mount a last-lap charge to reclaim third, the red flags came out and put paid to any chances of a second piece of silverware.
It was an eye-catching start to the final race of the 2015 season for the team, as Hopper blasted from the second row of the grid into the lead around the outside at Paddock Hill bend. He held on to top spot for the first circulation of the Grand Prix circuit, but on lap two a tough battle developed and Hopper dropped back into the pack.
Crossing the line in eighth after a race-long scrap, both rider and team were delighted to finish off the 2015 season with their strongest trio of races to date.
John Hopkins said: “It’s been a very good weekend, we scored three solid results but of course I wanted to finish higher in the last two races! We did fight to the end and it was so nice to get that podium in race one. We started the weekend on the back foot – there were a couple of issues early on that kept us off-track, and the weather conditions didn’t help so we didn’t get that many timed laps before the racing began. That meant that in race one we just went into the unknown, put our heads down and got that podium. It was well deserved and so happy to get a podium for a team that has worked so hard all year long. I have loved my time on the bike and can’t thank Ducati UK and the Lloyds British Moto Rapido squad for giving me this opportunity, I have thoroughly enjoyed it and it has been one of the best bikes I have ridden in a long, long time.
Team Principal Steve Moore said: “It was a one hundred percent successful weekend, in fact it was the best weekend we could have expected to get. It is very easy to start getting giddy when you get a podium and you are running at the front, but there is a whole group of guys from first to tenth that are all as fast as each other with very good equipment and very good teams. We had a small tyre problem in the third race of the weekend and even with that we were running at the front. The lap times were consistent, the bike performed perfectly throughout, so we are very happy and the podium is just the cherry on the top.”