News 10 Oct 2011

Hill edges out Hopkins in British Superbike championship thriller

Less than a bike length decides 2011 championship in the UK.

Tommy Hill edged out John Hopkins for the 2011 BSB title.

Tommy Hill edged out John Hopkins for the 2011 BSB title.

Tommy Hill was crowned the MCE Insurance British Superbike Champion after one of the most thrilling and intense last laps ever seen at Brands Hatch. Riding the Swan Yamaha Hill held off the fierce challenges of his rival for the crown John Hopkins by inches to take the second place that to him was just champion.

The late drama came on an afternoon of drama and incident. Hopkins had seen the 11 points lead he had amassed over Hill with his third place in the first race of the weekend slashed to just two as he battled back from a first lap electrical problem that halted his Samsung Crescent Racing Suzuki at Paddock Hill in the second race.

The American managed to re-start his machine and then powered in a damage limitation ride to finish twelfth, with Hill managing only fourth place to leave the two in a “winner takes all finale” in the final race of the season.

Hopkins quickly settled into third place, consolidating that and riding strongly to pull a reasonable gap on Hill. That would have been enough to ensure that Hopkins became the first American to take the British title, but Hill had other ideas and in the final quarter of the race upped the pace and closed in on his Suzuki rival.

Hill crossed the line in third place just ahead of Hopkins at the end of the seventeenth lap, having made the move at Hawthorn, and then the Lingfield rider set his sights on taking over in second place from Honda’s James Ellison. Hill was through to second on the penultimate lap but Hopkins was responding strongly, also shaking off Ellison to pile the pressure onto Hill.

Hill was defending his line through Paddock Hill Bend but Hopkins found a way through and that prompted the most amazing lap ever seen at the circuit. The two riders traded the lead no less than five times but it was Hill who had the advantage coming through Clearways. Hopkins all but levelled but Hill took the verdict by inches, or by official timing 0.006secs.

“Magic, absolutely unbelievable – I didn’t know that I had beaten him until I saw the reaction of the crowd,” said Hill as he avenged the bitter moment of last year’s final round at Oulton Park when a crash cost him the crown.

“Winning the title means everything to me – that last lap was amazing, it was BSB wanted and I gave it to them. I just got into the rhythm and rode as hard as I could so to come out on top like this is just so special.

“I’m gobsmacked. I’ve tried to stay as relaxed as possible since receiving the trophy. The season puts a lot of pressure and that reflects on everyone. It was just a shock that a whole season can come down to that. I wanted it badly and it was do or die,” added the delighted Hill who took the title 647-645 over Hopkins who said: “Hats off to him, he won. There was nothing more that I could have done.”

Third place in the overall standings went to HM Plant Honda’s former two times title winner Shane Byrne. He had a bitter sweet weekend at the races, with a heavy crash in qualifying but finishing sixth in Saturday’s race which was won by Swan Yamaha’s Michael Laverty. Then after slipping off in the morning damp warm-up practice Byrne bounced back to take a comfortable winning double increasing his winning tally over the season to six.

Jon Kirkham finished second to Byrne in Sunday’s opening race in which James Ellison finishing third gave the Honda team their first ever BSB podium finish a result the Cumbrian rider came within a tenth of a second of matching in the final race of the season.

Graeme Gowland ensured second place in the BSB-EVO class with a hat-trick of victories aboard his WFR Honda. He has won all but three of the last 16 races in the class which has been won by his team-mate Glen Richards.

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