MotoGP

Hopkins battled pain with alcohol

"I was trying not to take painkillers, and basically I was trying to drink away the pain."

John Hopkins made a dream return to MotoGP at Jerez qualifying 1.4 seconds behind pole position and finishing the race in tenth, but he has admitted that he had been using alcohol to relieve the pain from the injuries he had suffered over the years.

In an honest and open interview with Michael Scott and GP Week, Hopkins said: "I'd always liked to drink and party on Sunday nights. Like anything I do I take things to extremes. That's how it was with drinking with me … but the party had gone," started Hopper, "I was trying not to take painkillers, and basically I was trying to drink away the pain."

"That just sent me on a download spiral. My personal relationships had gone really bad, my career was going downwards very fast, and I was living in pain." continued Hopkins.

Hopper impressed in his return ride onboard the Rizla Suzuki, riding a MotoGP bike for the first time in three years and adapting to using the Bridgestone control-tyre and the advanced electronics.

The last time Hopkins raced in MotoGP was 2008, when after finishing a career best of fourth in 2007, Hopkins made the surprise move from Rizla Suzuki to join Kawasaki. In what was seen from the outside as more of a financial gain than a career focussed move, the season was troubled from the start. Hopper was hampered year-long by the uncompetitive Ninja ZX-RR and essentially one leg with the debilitating injuries suffered.

For 2009 and what should have been his second year on the green bike, Kawasaki pulled out of MotoGP as a result of the global economic crisis. Hopkins found a new home in WSB with the Stiggy Honda outfit, but an injury streak ruined any chances with Hopper missing the majority of the races. He would take a best finish of 8th on a return ride at Donington Park, only to be able to complete one of the two races before his career continued downhill at Nürburgring; Hopkins was hit from behind and run over, the results were being knocked out for 16 minutes and suffering a torn shoulder amongst other injuries.

He spent the rest of 2009 on the bench to concentrate on repairing the damages to his body with a focus on his wrist. In what should have been a straight-forward operation, the doctor botched the job by placing a pin straight through a nerve. Hopper suffered with the pain for a week before pleading with the doctor to remove the pin or he would be forced 'to cut his wrist off' to deal with the pain.

Further detailing the struggles with a long list of injuries, Hopper continued with difficulty in a move back to race in the AMA series on a Monster-backed Suzuki GSX-R1000. The wrist was making racing virtually impossible, "I was having to take full throttle with my fingertips, then let go to brake. Throttle control was moving my whole arm, not my wrist." Hopkins described in the interview.

Seeking advice from a specialist he was given a 70 percent chance of recovery, but a major surgery that included receiving donor tissue from cadavers, Hopper made an emphatic return to the American Superbike championship taking podium finishes in the last three rounds.

The Anglo-American admits that during the period between 2007-2010 he didn't enjoy racing and was tempted to hang up his leathers and quit. Thankfully with a breakthrough operation and opportunities including a return to the Denning fold riding in BSB and back-up support for the Rizla Suzuki MotoGP, Hopper concluded his weekend performance: "It has been an amazing weekend and I’m so grateful again to Rizla Suzuki for giving me this great opportunity. Hopefully in the future, you’ll see more of me here, but for now I need to concentrate on the BSB championship and we’ll see what happens.”

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