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The Hopkins Dilemma

As he mends from the effects of two violent high-sides in Germany last weekend, and a resultant surgery on one of his feet, John Hopkins has a bit more time to think about his future in MotoGP.

Suzuki has already stated they have made a “long term” offer to Hopkins to keep him on their MotoGP squad. Other MotoGP teams, however, have surely shown interest in the young, talented American.

The question for Hopkins is this. Should he stay with Suzuki where the team is fully committed to him . . . probably as the number one rider next year, or should he move to a team that has a more proven motorcycle, such as a Honda satellite MotoGP squad?

We can assume the money will be better at Suzuki, but a young rider like Hopkins had better be thinking about more than just the amount of money he will make over the next two years. He needs to think about his career and, ultimately, his legacy as a racer.

First and foremost, Hopkins needs to get himself on a bike capable of running at the front. If that means moving from Suzuki, so be it. Of course, it is never quite that simple.

We don’t know that Honda will have the best bike next year. We don’t know that Michelins will be better than Bridgestones next year. I am sure that Suzuki is committed to giving Hopkins a bike he can win on. They did it for Kenny Roberts near the end of the two-stroke era and won a World championship. They could do it again. We just don’t know, and neither does John Hopkins.

Weighing in favor of Honda is the end of the 990cc era next year and the need to engineer new engines from 2007 onward. Honda always seems to have at least a “very good bike” and their engineering advantage tends to really shine when the technical rules change, and they will dramatically change in 2007. So, Suzuki and many other manufacturers may be playing catch up to Honda, once again.

Any way you look at it, John Hopkins has a difficult choice to make. If we have any advice it is this. Expect yourself to be a World champion some day, and find the motorcycle that will get you there sooner, rather than later. In the long run, the money will take care of itself.