Hodgson For Corona Team

Henny Ray Abrams | February 2, 2009

BROOKLYN, NY, FEB 2: At the end of the most stressful two months of his life, Neil Hodgson was finally able to smile. The Isle of Man resident found out last Thursday that a deal had been brokered to keep his factory Honda team together, but now with backing by Corona Extra. It was the best of both worlds and Hodgson was both pleased and relieved for the successful resolution of what was a troubling time. Hodgson will ride a factory Honda CBR1000RR out of the American Honda race shop in Torrance, but wrapped in Corona Extra colors. His crew will be the American Honda development team that Hodgson worked with at the Daytona Dunlop tire test, where he set the fastest Superbike time. The team will be managed by Ron Heben, the American Honda road race boss whose contract was soon to expire. “I don’t see it as a second rate effort or a support team,” Hodgson said. “We’ve got full factory support. I’ve got all the technicians I would have had. Ron Heben’s the team manager, which, obviously, for me gives me a lot of comfort having worked with Ron and knowing how professional he is. I know everything’s going to be done right. Tim (Saunders, the Corona Extra team owner) is really excited. Tim’s always been really, really good on the PR side and obviously he’s got Corona as a sponsor. He’s keen to play his part in all that. I’m looking forward to working with him and with Corona. And like I say, just genuinely hoping to be battling for some wins and not knowing when you turn up for a race meeting that if you have a good weekend you’re going to finish maybe third or fourth.” Hodgson said that “All along, Tim Saunders had expressed an interest in basically running the team. I’d always wanted to ride a Superbike. I think then it was just, it’s been a long month of trying to get the figures to match up. Finally, it’s all happened. “Like I said, I’m very, very pleased. I’ve said it before, and I’m not saying it because I’m a Honda rider, I truly believe the CBR1000 is the best street bike out there. The rules are more stock-based, so I think you’ll definitely see Neil Hodgson and Honda a lot more competitive this year. So I’m really, really excited about that.” Hodgson, who had a contract with Honda for 2009, wasn’t excited about the prospects of finding another ride. The best rides in World Superbike were taken, “because by the time everything started to go really wrong, everybody that I was talking to, I couldn’t get excited. I thought, I know how competitive World Superbike is going to be. I’m certainly not afraid of that competition, but I’m afraid of that competition if I’m riding for a C team or a B team. You know if you’re the Ten Kate team, the Ducati team, the Alstare Suzuki team, you know you’re going to be in with a shot. But if you’re in some team that you’ve not really heard of, or you have, but their best result was they had a few seventh places last year, you just think, this year of all, I just know what’s going to happen.” The original motivation for coming to America was to add an American Superbike title to his British and World Superbike Championships. “I definitely feel like I’ve gone a bit off track with that desire and that dream, but I don’t think a lot of that fault’s been mine. You see the dominance that Suzuki’s had over the last four years. No other real teams had a chance. I’m hoping now with the new DMG rules and everything that it’s going to tighten everything up and I can get back to the plan of what I actually first came over here for, which was to try to win some races, not just get a sun tan.” The competition will be led by Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Mat Mladin, he said, “without any doubt. He’s a fierce competitor and he’s 100% the man to be beat. I’m definitely excited about the chance to up my game and try to race with him. and then I think it will be everybody else. I think at the moment he’s going to be the man, then I think it should be the rest of us, myself, [Aaron] Yates, Ben [Bostrom], Josh [Hayes], and Tommy [Hayden], obviously, and possibly Blake Young.” Both Hodgson and Jake Holden have been entered by Corona Extra Honda in the Daytona American Superbike race, but Holden doesn’t have a spot on the team. Holden terminated his agreement for a breach of contract over late payments at the end of last season, Saunders said. “He presented us with a legal termination which we obviously felt was not justified.”

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.