Image: Colin Port Images
Sittingbourne’s 15-year-old racer competed in his final event of the season on the Donington Park National circuit this weekend. At the end of a race packed year that has seen Hopkins ride in the British Superbike Moto3 series, at world level in the World Supersport 300 championship, Hopkins received special dispensation to compete in the Thundersport 600 Elite class as he is under 16.
The final round of the Thundersport championship was only Luke’s second time racing on the Yamaha R6. He was up against some well-known talent, such as Tom Oliver who finished fourth in the British Superbike Superstock 600 championship this year.
During qualifying he managed a best lap time of 1:16.021 which saw him qualify 13th for the race but line up 17th in the mixed Elite and Sportsman grid.
Hopkins made a positive start to the first 16 lap race, picking up seven places on the opening lap, putting him tenth in his class. Hopkins set a good pace reducing his fastest lap time to 1:14.339. He went on to maintain tenth position as he crossed the finish line.
In the second race, Hopkins started from 14th on the grid. It had rained earlier in the day and the track was still drying. Hopkins made an error on the first lap at the chicane, which saw him drop to 33rd and last place in the race. He was also eight seconds behind the nearest rider. As always Hopkins just got on with it and was 28th by the end of the third lap. His lap times were good enough to put him inside the top six or seven riders so he quickly picked off a number of bikes ahead of him. Hopkins weaved his way through to finish an incredible tenth. His best lap time on the damp track was 1:19.502 just a fraction over a second behind the race winner.
In the final race of the weekend, Hopkins finished in an impressive seventh place but it wasn’t plain sailing. Having reached the half way stage of the race Hopkins was seventh in his class and riding in a mixed group of six Sportsman and Elite riders. As the race went on his bike developed clutch problems. His lap times went from low one minute fourteens seconds to around one minute fifteen. Nonetheless the teenager nursed the bike across the line for seventh and his best finish of the weekend. Earlier in the race he set his fastest lap time of the weekend a 1:13.577.
Hopkins said,” It’s been hard this weekend. The weather was really windy, especially down the back straight. There were also some very good riders out there. To come away with a seventh and two tenth place finishes was a good result and a great way to end the season. Thanks Thundersport for organising the dispensation to ride this weekend. Also a big thanks my parents for everything they’ve done for me this year and to all my sponsors.”