Hopkins MRO 600 championship runner-up
Luke Hopkins from Sittingbourne secured runner-up spot in the Team Respro MRO 600 championship run by British Motorcycle Club. Despite winning more races than any other rider the 16-year-old missed three rounds (eleven races) leaving him with an outside chance of the title at this final round.
Having got used to his Yamaha R6 since switching from Moto3 this season, Hopkins took his first podium at the second round of the series at Silverstone. He stood on the rostrum in three out of the four races that weekend. His first win on the Yamaha R6 came at Snetterton a round later. He picked up three race victories and a second place.
Hopkins then missed three rounds before returning to winning form with two more victories at the second visit to Snetterton at the end of August. Three wins and a second at Pembrey left Hopkins 27 points behind the championship leader going into the final round.
The final round took place on the Brands Hatch Indy circuit in Kent. Hopkins had qualified third but started fifth in a combined grid with another class of motorcycle.
On Saturday, it was drizzling for the first race 10 lap race and the track was slippery. Hopkins quickly gained a place whilst the championship leader had already made a gap at the front. By the end of the second lap he had closed down on the rider ahead, and second in his class. The gap was just a tenth of a second. Lap three and he was through and looking to catch the championship leader. Hopkins was able to reel him in quickly and coming out of Clearways at the end of the fifth lap he swept into the lead.
In the difficult conditions Hopkins was unable to make a gap but maintained the lead crossing the finish line 0.460 seconds ahead of the Harry Rowlings who led the championship.
For the second race Hopkins started on pole for his class. However, he immediately began to have problems with his bike. Unfortunately, he was having problems with the rear wheel spinning every time he opened the throttle and was losing valuable time. He had to settle for fourth place at the flag whilst Rowlings took the win.
For the two 12 lap races on Sunday Hopkins was relaxed. Whilst he was out to win the gap between himself and the leader was some 34 points, after the misfortune of race two on Saturday.
Hopkins had to start from seventh and Rowlings was on pole for the class. He made a superb start making up three places on the first lap. The following lap he made up two more places and was 1.8 seconds behind the championship leader. It only looked like a matter of time before he would catch and pass Rowlings, such was Hopkins’ pace. He put in a blistering 48.454 lap to move into the lead at the end of the fourth lap. From then on he pulled away and went on to cross the line for victory with an 8.965 second margin.
With Rowlings coming home second the title went to the last race.
In the final race Hopkins started on pole position. When the lights went out he dropped to second but by the fourth lap he was out front. From then on the gap grew. Hopkins finished four and a half seconds ahead of Burrage with Rowlings, coming home in fourth. With Rowlings finishing he did enough to take the title.
Luke Hopkins said, “Congratulations to Harry [Rowlings] on winning the championship. I have really enjoyed racing my Yamaha R6 this season and would like to thank Bemsee for organising such a great championship. To finish runner up and just 15 points adrift after missing so many races, I’ve got to be pleased with that. We haven’t decided what we are going to do next year yet but we will let you know as soon as we have.”
Photo: David Watson