John Hopkins has been confirmed today as a Kawasaki Racing Team rider for the 2008 and 2009 seasons of the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix (MotoGP).
The American rider sits fourth in the current points for the championship this year, racing for the Rizla Suzuki MotoGP team. He is a longshot to win the title with Ducati Marlboro rider Casey Stoner at 185 with five-time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi in second with 164 pints. Still with 94 points, Hopkins could take over third from Repsol Honda's Daniel Pedrosa with 119.
"The discussions haven't been easy, as John is probably the most sought after rider in the paddock at the moment, but we are happy that, of all the options open to him for next year, he finally chose to join Kawasaki", Bartholemy added.
Kawasaki is being competitive this year and wants to be ready for the world championship next season to take the title and Hopkins would be on good way to attempt it.
The contract between Hopkins and Kawasaki is for two years and has been signed right before the activity starts tomorrow for the German Grand Prix on the Sachsenring circuit.
"John has both the ability and the determination necessary to win races but, before this year, he maybe hasn't had the machinery necessary. I'm confident that the combination of John Hopkins and Kawasaki's Ninja ZX-RR will be a potent one next year, and we're looking forward to seeing John realized both his and Kawasaki's full potential," Bartholemy said.
"For me, John's decision to join Kawasaki for the next two years is a clear indication of just how far we've come with the new team infrastructure and the 800cc Ninja ZX-RR. Just twelve months ago we wouldn't have been in a position to attract a rider of John's calibre, but the situation is very different now. We have proved that Kawasaki has a professional set-up and a competitive package in the Ninja ZX-RR, which is why we now have the option of also signing a proven MotoGP race winner to ride alongside John Hopkins next season".
Hopkins made his Grand Prix debut in 2002 for the WCM Red Bull team, for whom he raced a 500cc two-stroke against the new breed of four-stroke MotoGP machines.
After an impressive showing during his rookie year, the following season Hopkins secured a seat alongside former 500cc world champion, Kenny Roberts, in the factory Suzuki squad, for whom he is now in his fifth season.
Hopkins hails from Ramona, California and now resides in San Diego. At the age of 24, he is having his best season so far including landing his maiden podium finish in May at the Grand Prix of China, finishing behind Stoner and Rossi.
The American expressed his pleasure when he crossed the finish line in third. "I am so happy with the way the race went and I want to dedicate my first podium to my Dad! Without doubt he was watching me and he certainly helped get me through to the finish - there will be more of these to come! I want to also give a big thanks to everyone who has supported me and especially my family," he said after the race in Shanghai.