Luke Hopkins finishes runner-up in Kawasaki Championship
Luke Hopkins from Sittingbourne finished the Team Green Junior Cup with a fantastic runner-up spot, after narrowly missing out on the title in the final round at Brands Hatch.
Going into the final round of four races the 14-year-old was in second position in the championship, but the gap to the leader was a huge fifty points. Despite the slim chances of taking the title he rode his Kawasaki Ninja 300 to three race victories and a second position. Unfortunately for Luke, his rival just did enough, despite giving away 39 points of his advantage over the weekend and held on to beat Hopkins by just eleven points. Hopkins’ collected 504 points over the season which included seven race wins, eleven second places and six third positions.
Luke Hopkins said, “It’s been an amazing championship. It’s only my second year of racing. I love riding the Kawasaki Ninja 300 and to be runner-up is brilliant. Congratulations to Elliot Pinson for winning the title and to my Dad, Gareth, who won the senior title.”
The Team Green Junior Cup riders all compete on Kawasaki Ninja 300 machines and this weekend they were racing on the Brands Hatch Indy track. In qualifying on Saturday morning Hopkins was slow to set a good lap time but he managed to finish with a flourish setting the second best time of 57.908.
Just a few hours later the riders were back on track for race one. Joey Lambden was on pole position, whilst Hopkins was in the middle and his championship rival Pinson completed the front row. Hopkins flew off the start line managing to make an early break as Pinson and Lambden fought over second place. By the middle of the race Lamden was closing the gap on Hopkins whilst Pinson had dropped to fifth. Hopkins then began to lose the coolant fluid from his bike and Lambden went on to overtake him with three laps remaining. Hopkins continued and finished second whilst Pinson crossed the finish line in a distant third place. Hopkins had gained ten points on the championship leader.
In the second race on the Saturday, Hopkins again made a superb start taking the lead. This time he was able to continue to pull-away and finished the race over nine seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Unfortunately for Hopkins Pinson was the rider finishing second and this reduced the gap between the two by just five points.
Hopkins woke up on Sunday morning 41 points behind the championship leader. This was still a mountain to climb with just two races to go. Hopkins was 34 points ahead of the rider in third.
The third race was another victory for Hopkins. Pinson managed to make the better start and led from start to finish on the track but was penalised after the race. Hopkins chased after the Swindon rider cutting the gap from 4.2 seconds at one point to just 3.3 as they crossed the finish line after 13 laps but he had to settle for second, or so he thought. Pinson was adjudged to have committed a yellow flag infringement and was given a time penalty meaning Hopkins was credited with the race victory. However, with Pinson in second place it was enough to secure the title, so Hopkins had to settle for second in the championship.
In race four Hopkins and Elliot Pinson were racing for pride. They had already secured their championship positions. Hopkins led from pole position but was being pushed hard by Elliot Pinson. On lap three Pinson crashed out leaving Hopkins 3.4 seconds clear of Payne in third place on lap three. As the race continued Hopkins raced untroubled and negotiated the various back markers with ease to take the chequered flag for his third race win of the weekend.
Hopkins ended the season on 504 points whilst his rival Pinson finished with 515 points.
Although the Team Green Junior Cup Championship has now finished Luke Hopkins continues his incredibly successful racing season. He will be back racing in the final round of the Hel Performance Motostar British Championship in seven days. The Moto3 series event will also be at Brands Hatch, but on the GP circuit.
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Photo: Hilary Hardy