Posted: 13 Aug 2013
Neil Hodgson returned to Oulton Park, the scene of one of his most memorable victories, a dozen years ago when he took a “back to front victory” en route to winning the British Superbike crown. The Lancastrian then overcame a bike problem on the warm-up lap that forced him to start from the back of the grid. But, he scorched through the pack to take the victory – a case of red mist, maybe, more realistically a sign of his determination to fight and succeed.
On the strength of winning the 2000 BSB crown, Hodgson went on to conquer the world prior to injury ending his career prematurely but his links with the sport continue in various ways including his roles at the Cheshire circuit as the ambassador for the buoyant Ducati 848 TriOptions Challenge and television work.
Looking back over his career, Hodgson was fast-tracked through the ranks winning the British 125GP crown as an 18-year-old in 1992 and then moving into 125cc Grand Prix the following season, having the support of HRC Honda, two years later. He made a couple of “wild-card” appearances in 500cc Grand Prix ahead of a full-time move to that series in 1995 with WCM finishing 11th overall.
Next career move was into World Superbikes, first riding Ducati and then Kawasaki, but they were three seasons of frustration for the Burnley racer and he headed back to domestic competition and the BSB Championship in 1999 linking up with the GSE Ducati team managed by Colin Wright and he was a winner first time out at Brands Hatch – the winning formula he summed up simply: “When you have a smile on your face and enjoying it, you can do anything.” He lived up to that by taking the country’s premier crown in the next season en route back to World Championship action.
World Superbike beckoned for him and the GSE Ducati team which graduated with him into that series, in its second term finishing third overall and in 2003 Hodgson was signed to ride for the factory Ducati team, rewarding the Italian marque by powering to the World crown.
Hodgson moved on again, into MotoGP with the D’Antin Ducati team though with modest returns which prompted him to move Stateside with the ambition of becoming the first rider to win the BSB, WSBK and AMA Superbike crowns but that proved a distant dream despite determined riding and the hopes were ended by a career threatening accident while riding a motocross bike badly damaged a shoulder and punctured a lung.
Hodgson fought back through the pain to ride on but his planned return to BSB in 2010 was over almost before it started with a tumble in practice at Brands Hatch ahead of the opening round prompting him to hang up his racing leathers.