Suzuki has called up its former MotoGP rider John Hopkins as a reserve for the 2011 season, and the American could test the team's latest bike in Qatar next month.
With Suzuki cutting back to a single MotoGP entry for Alvaro Bautista this year, the team is keen to ensure it is not left without a presence on the grid if the Spaniard is injured.
Hopkins was a factory Suzuki MotoGP rider from 2003 to 2007, and is racing for the Crescent Suzuki team in British Superbikes this year. Paul Denning, who runs both Suzuki's MotoGP and BSB programs, told MotoGP.com that Hopkins was the ideal candidate for the role.
"With only one rider we've got to think carefully about a back-up plan, in case something goes wrong," Denning explained. "We're obviously very much hoping that we don't have to call on it at any point, because we're putting everything behind Alvaro and that's the priority. But we have an obligation to Suzuki, to [title sponsor] Rizla and to all the team's partners to be at all the races so we do need to have a plan.
"John is available, he's got experience and he's fit and focused, and so he would seem to be the right man to do that job."
Denning added that it was not yet certain whether Hopkins would run in the official test at Losail on March 13-14, but he would be present with the team and would ride the bike for some promotional filming. The 27-year-old switched from Suzuki to Kawasaki at the end of the 2008 season, but then lost his place in MotoGP when Kawasaki withdrew before 2009. He has since raced in World and AMA Superbikes.
Hopkins' most successful MotoGP season was in 2007, when he took four podium finishes on the way to fourth in the championship for Suzuki.