Thursday, September 06, 2007

Smart move in a silly season

The motorcycle silly season is a thing to behold. With the differences between the top tier (MotoGP), the secondary tier (World Superbike) and tertiary tiers (domestic superbike championships, World Supersport and the like) somewhat smaller than their 4-wheeled equivalent, there is always a lot of movement.

Regularity of announcements for the forthcoming season happen on something of a bell-curve. Riders are naturally looking for the best seat possible, and these are usually the first to be confirmed. As these slots slowly get taken, desperation starts to kick in, as torrents of riders start to take their second, third or fourth choice rides. This is where the height of the silly season is to be found as mid-level riders rush to guarantee a paycheck. As things slow down, those left standing search for scraps, before finally a few riders remain unemployed, and choose to either take a sabbatical or retire altogether.

One of the riders who missed the boat last year is someone who has secured his future very early this year, 2003 World Superbike champ Neil Hodgson. Instead of waiting around for a possibly better ride in a possibly better championship, he took a good job with a good team in a good championship, signing for the factory Honda team in the American superbike series. There's a chance he could have found something better: Ducati may well be replacing Lorenzo Lanzi in World Superbike, and with Johnny Rea off to World Supersport with Ten Kate, the factory Honda team in British Superbike is hiring. But Hodgson didn't want to make the same mistake twice. He enjoyed his time living in Southern California for two years when he rode for the Ducati team in AMA Superbike in 2004 and 2005, so he's perfectly happy to be bringing his family back to the US, where he'll earn a very good salary.

Honda will have a brand new CBR1000rr superbike in 2008. Neil is no doubt hoping that it will be the machine that will finally topple the tediously superb Yoshimura Suzuki team in the top AMA class. Whilst it won't win any prizes for beauty, we as fans can only pray it will shake things up on the track, particularly with a skilled pilot such as "The Hodge" on board.

Welcome back to the US Neil Hodgson!


DBT said...

As a British fan (we all love Hodgy) I'm very pleased for him getting a deal.
Seeing him on the Eurosport WSBK coverage this season, almost pining to be out there with them, was very painful as a fan and must have been awful for a former British and World Champion.
It's a shame, from my personal point of view, that he's all the way over on your side of the pond as I won't get to see him ride in the flesh again (been a long time!). I just hope SkySports keeps up it's coverage of the AMA Superbikes series (basically a direct feed from Speed).
I was hopeful, as we he in interviews I saw, of getting Toseland's Ten Kate ride, now he's moving up to MotoGP (hopefully as champion!).
I can only hope that his satellite Yahama is more competitive than it's been this year... I always have nightmares for riders making this move after John Kozinski's awesome battles at the head of the field with Foggarty off he went to play in the middle of the pack at MotoGP (as Hodgy himself did, with D'Antin).
It's a shame the GP teams don't seem to hold a WSBK title very highly - a bit like F1 with IRL/ChampCar. Look at Bourdais domination there - and he's rewarded by a team at the back of the grid!

Clive said...

Actually, that's a pretty good comparison - WSBK to Champ Cars. And as for Bourdais, F1 in general seems pretty impressed by his CC record but I'll wait and see.