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Sunday, September 25, 2011

LCR Honda confirm Hopkins and de Puniet talks

British superbike championship contender John Hopkins and French rider Randy de Puniet could land an LCR Honda ride in 2012 if Andrea Dovizioso fails to agree a deal with Lucio Cecchinello’s squad.

Cecchinello’s number one target for next season is Italian Dovizioso, who has also been linked with Cal Crutchlow’s Tech 3 Yamaha squad.

With Repsol Honda rider Dovizioso sizing up his options for next season, Cecchinello has also kicked off negotiations with American Hopkins and former rider de Puniet.

Hopkins turned down the chance to ride a Honda RC212V with struggling Spaniard Toni Elias at LCR in selected races earlier this season.

But he is keen to make a return to the world stage, though his preference would be to continue his relationship with Suzuki next year.

Hopkins impressed when he replaced injured Alvaro Bautista in Jerez earlier this season but a wild card chance on a factory GSV-R at last month’s Brno race ended in disaster when a practice crash left him with a badly broken right hand.

Pramac Ducati rider de Puniet is also in talks with Cecchinello. He rode for LCR for three years but split at the end of last season after Cecchinello moved for Moto2 world champion Elias.

He moved to Pramac Ducati but he has endured a nightmare on the GP11 and only scored two top 10 finishes in the opening 14 races.

Cecchinello told MCN: “We are in contact with John Hopkins and with Randy de Puniet. We still have an excellent relationship with Randy and especially after this year we understood it was a pity to stop our working relationship last year.

"We didn’t consider other options until now, despite the fact that (Alvaro) Bautista is in the market and Stefan Bradl also. Our first priority is Andrea, but if he signs with another team we are keen to consider Hopkins and de Puniet.”

Bradl is back on the market after his current Kiefer Racing Moto2 squad failed to secure the budget to lease a new Honda RC213V machine for the inaugural 1000cc MotoGP world championship in 2012.

The German held talks with Cecchinello earlier this season but a deal now seems unlikely.

Cecchinello said: "Honestly speaking after a tough season like this year, we would like to race with an experienced MotoGP rider. I’m not saying Bradl will not be fast in MotoGP but maybe he needs learning time and in our position it is really important to show to our sponsors an interesting plan and project.”

source: MCN

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