Belfast Telegraph

John Hopkins can skip to title - Philip Neil

Tyco Suzuki team manager Philip Neill believes the current shake-up at his Moneymore-based team will give them every chance of success in next year's British Superbike Championship, starting with high profile new signing John Hopkins.

The Californian took a 12-month sabbatical from racing in 2012 following a hip injury that required surgery, but with over 100 MotoGP race starts on his CV, not to mention four podiums in the company of Rossi and Co, Neill is confident that 'Hopper' can add that little bit of consistency his team undoubtedly lacked in previous championship campaigns.

Speaking from the Milan bike show, Neill said: "John Hopkins is a household name in racing terms, and after watching him ride in MotoGP for many years, he is a fantastic signing for our team and sponsors."

Having finished second, third and fourth in previous BSB seasons, I asked Neill: is Hopkins the elixir his team needs to win the championship?

"I believe he can and obviously that's why we signed him," was his immediate and direct response.

"John had a fantastic BSB debut in 2011 and was challenging for race wins at circuits he hadn't even seen before, which is pretty special.

"He's a top professional; well known and respected throughout the global Suzuki family.

"And on a personal level we are looking forward to showing him some Northern Ireland hospitality."

Now that the team have all but completed their British Superbike line-up – with Taylor Mackenzie expected to remain in the Supersport berth – this just leaves Hector and Philip the task of completing their road racing line-up.

Maverick Lincolnshire man Guy Martin signed on the dotted line back in August with Tyco Suzuki at the Ulster Grand Prix and his main goal – as it has been since 2004 – is to turn his plethora of TT podiums into a long-overdue top step.

But for once the fast-talking TV star has been over-shadowed by recent speculation surrounding his un-named team-mate for 2014. In recent days the latest name to top that list is talented Ballymoney man William Dunlop.

When quizzed on the subject Philip Neill said: "Obviously with the departure of Josh Brookes, who previously formed part of our road race programme, we are now faced with the decision of running solo with Guy – as we did in 2011 – or secure a second rider."

On the subject of William Dunlop (pictured), he added: "William is a very talented rider and he would certainly be an asset to any team, however, it's early days and we have had talks over recent weeks with several riders who are interested in the position."

Having decided against Milwaukee Yamaha and Mar-Train Racing rides, TAS Racing would be a great place for William to secure his future and a coveted TT victory.

Hector and Philip Neill have previously taken Adrian Archibald and Cameron Donald to their maiden TT wins, and what a story it would be if the quietly spoken and affable Ballymoney man could stand on the Glenclutchery Road top step next June backed by a local team. We eagerly await developments.

Belfast Telegraph

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