Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Neil Hodgson Retires

The nice guy of British bike racing, Neil Hodgson, has been forced to retire after "doing a Foggy" and knackering his shoulder altogether.

The immensely likeable Lancashire lad (Hodgson, not Foggy) is a former World Superbike champion, who also raced in BSB, AMA and MotoGP.

Last year, while he was riding in AMA, he was doing some motocross training when the bike spat him off and he landed on his shoulder, doing serious damage. Hodgson decided to return to British Superbike, but had a disaster in practise for the first round at Brands Hatch when he highsided on a cold tyre, landing on that same shoulder again.

Sadly, it was curtains for his motorcycle racing career. Neil reported that his shoulder should recover most of its function over the next couple of years, but his bike racing days are over.

It's a very sad day for British bike racing. Some people have slagged Hodgson for winning the WSBK title by sheer dumb luck, finding himself on a factory Ducati on Michelin tyres when nobody on another bike or tyres could win a race. But Hodge didn't find his factory Ducati contract in a box of cornflakes. He earned it through talent and determination. Winning the BSB title in 2000 helped his GSE Ducati team decide to move up to WSBK the following year. A couple of years as a bloody quick privateer with a win and tons of podiums led to the Ducati ride. (Those results being in the Bayliss-Edwards years, and riding wheel to wheel with those guys is no mean feat.)

His only real competition for the WSBK title was his team-mate Ruben Xaus. OK, the crazy Catalan, nicknamed Ruben Chaos, did tend to fling his bike at every gravel trap he passed by, but he was seriously quick.

The pair of them were both promoted to the first satellite Ducati MotoGP team, but the bikes were second rate and the team was fourth rate, and surrounded by non-stop rumours of [cough] financial [ahem] issues.

So Hodgson was no muppet on a bike. I'd be amazed if Neil wasn't appearing on our TV screens on a regular basis. He's been there and done that, raced all over the world, and he's quite simply one of the most likeable characters in bike racing. Good luck in the future, Neil.

No comments: