by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
GP Week : Issue 110
American John Hopkins was fourth overall in 2007 on a Suzuki, but since then has been to hell and back. He returned to replace Suzuki regular Alvaro Bautista at Jerez. This is his story. He spoke with MICHAEL SCOTT 5 Minutes with ... JOHN HOPKINS GPWEEK: Welcome back to MotoGP. You’ve had a tough time of it recently. JOHN HOPKINS: It’s been a difficult couple of years to say the least. It started when I joined Kawasaki at the start of 2008. Testing in Australia in the rain, I crashed and tore my muscle straight off the bone in my hip. That was extremely painful, but I wanted to get back on the bike as soon as I could. We started the season at Qatar, and I was in tears when I got off the bike. Then in Barcelona I had a big highside, and fractured my L4 vertebra. But I went to Donington. I hadn’t slept for two weeks, because any position was too painful. I was living on painkillers, but I got through the weekend there – showed up at Assen, and hadn’t slept, for three weeks now. There was no possible way I should have been riding. If I could give any advice to riders, it’d be to heal up properly. That’s when the first big crash happened. There was actually a mechanical reason – a problem with the forks. Anyway, I was sliding along the ground at 170 mph and I went straight into an unprotected barrier at probably 100 mph. I was pretty lucky to get away with it, but it completely blew out my knee and my ankle. I was out for quite a few races, but I came back and did the best I could. But I was living in pain. It was an awful year, and it took a lot out of me mentally. Then Kawasaki pulled out at the end of the year. So basically I was out of a ride. The only thing we could muster up was with Stiggy Honda in World Superbikes. I went to Valencia and got through that okay. Got a top ten. I was mending now. I hadn’t been on a bike for eight months and I never once felt comfortable on the Honda. I went back to Assen, and basically made a stupid mistake, trying too quick on a dirty track. Ended up busting my femur and dislocated my hip. Same thing – the team had expectations and I wanted to be back on the bike to prove what I could do. How did you cope with the pain? I’d always liked to drink and party on Sunday nights. Like anything I do I take things to extremes. That’s how it was with drinking with me ... but the party had gone. I was trying not to take painkillers, and basically I was trying to drink away the pain. That just sent me on a downward spiral. My personal relationships had gone really bad, my career was going downwards very fast, and I was living in pain. I came back to race at Donington. Again I think I finished in the top ten but I was able to do only one of the two races. From there we went to Nürburgring and I got hit from behind and run over, and I was knocked out for 16 minutes. I tore out part of my shoulder, and some other stuff. At the beginning of ’07 I’d broken my wrist testing at Qatar, severed one of my tendons, and had never gotten that fixed. And now that was starting to get worse and worse. Since I was out for the rest of the year we tried to fix the wrist damage, but the doctor ended up putting in one of the external pins straight through a nerve. I kept that in for about a week. Then I went back and said: ‘If you can’t fix this pain I want you to cut off my wrist.’ They had to remove the pin, and it looked like my wrist was done. I was now in a really bad place mentally ... drinking way too much, an asshole to be around. And I took a long hard look at my life and what I was becoming. And I figured ... I got to turn this around. I haven’t drunk an ounce of alcohol since, for almost 17 months. Completely sober. How did you pick up your career again? In 2010 I rode in the AMA series in America, but the wrist was really bad. I was having to take full throttle with my fingertips, then let go to brake. Throttle control was moving my whole arm, not my wrist. My results were bad, I was living in pain again. I thought then ... I have to quit. This is it. Mentally, I can’t do this anymore. We searched the US to see if any specialist could fix my wrist. They all said there was nothing to be done, I was going to have to have my wrist fused. We finally found a doctor who gave me a 70 percent chance, because he had done it previously with an American football player who made a full recovery. It was huge surgery, with donor tissue from cadavers. I was out for months .. . I did it right for the first time. Came back for the last three races, and I got immediately on the podium. From 2007 to the final races of 2010, I didn’t enjoy racing. But those final three races I finally started having fun again. All the partying and drinking was in the past; I was more focused than I had ever been. And this year you’ve joined British Superbikes, and now you’re back at GPs substituting for Bautista. What’s the long-term plan? I figured BSB was better than staying in America, to get me where I want to be ... in MotoGP full time. We talked Paul (Denning, Suzuki team manager) into putting the replacement rider thing into the contract. It’s not how I wanted to be here, but I’m going to take full advantage. There’ve been riders who have replaced me because I got hurt. And what is a MotoGP bike like after three years away? The electronics are so much further advanced from what I remembered – that is the biggest thing. The bikes are smaller and more rigid. You can feel every bump. The Bridgestone tyres have way more grip than any others I’ve ever used ... but trying to find the limit is a lot harder. There’s a heck of a lot to learn in the space of a weekend, but I am trying to get my head round it. 20