Corona Extra Honda’s Neil Hodgson found New Jersey Motorsports Park to be a “good little track” after an initial outing in the wet on the first of two days of testing.Hodgson was one of the few riders to test the 2.25-mile, 14-turn Thunderbolt Raceway at the facility near Millville in southern New Jersey. Riding on rain tires on a track that was drying, Hodgson found the grip strong enough to wheelie out of most of the turns.”So far I quite like it. I think it’s a good little track,” he said. “It seems like it’s got a really good flow to it. So in general, I must say I’m happy.”Other riders who’d been around the track in rental cars found run-off issues in a few corners, including the first turn after the half-mile front straight. Hodgson agreed.”It looks a little bit tight in the run-off in quite a few spots,” he said. “Turn one looks a bit sketchy. Certainly if you had any brake issues or anything like that it could be a bit messy. Just probably a couple of sections maybe just add a little bit of run-off or maybe some decent gravel traps.”The final turn, which is approached straight up and down under a bridge, was also singled out.”I think that seems okay,” Hodgson said. “It seems weird, because obviously whenever you go under a bridge it’s walls either side. But it’d be a bit of a freak accident to be going into it and in Japan [at both Motegi and Suzuka] you go under bridges. Same sort of deal. There’s pretty much walls either side and you have some lean angle as well.”More than once Hodgson said the track was small, by which he meant narrow and tight. Because of that he felt the racing was “going to be very one line. That’s probably a down-side, but you always find passing opportunities where you have to. And there’ll be a passing opportunity into one, I’d say, but apart from that it looks like pretty follow the leader, but not bad.”Hodgson likes the corner prior the straight because it’s fast, he said, adding, “I’ve always liked fast corners. Everything’s second gear. It’d be nice for it to be a bit more Miller-esque, where there’s corners that open out and third-gear corners. A few of the corners open out, so not bad.”Other’s who’d ridden here prior to this test have said their front ends get light at a rise in the straightaway, but it wasn’t noticeable to Hodgson.”I didn’t do the chicane on my last lap, so I got some real speed up the jump. You’re not even close to taking off,” he said. “It’s not like Cadwell [Park – a track where both wheels come well off the ground],” he said, “because that’d be awesome.”There were a few standing water issues that Hodgson spoke to the AMA’s Bill Syfan about. Syfan told him the track was working on the drainage issues.”There’s a lot of lying water into turn one, where you’d definitely lose it on the brakes and then that’s going to show the problem of not having enough run-off there, because you’re going to plow straight into a fence,” he said.What was crucial to Hodgson were the physical demands of the track. Still not fully recovered from dislocating his shoulder back in March, Hodgson struggled at Mid-Ohio. This track was much better.”It’s going to be okay,” he said. “For me, I’m judging the track, if I like the track, because I can actually ride it with my shoulder. Now, obviously in the wet it’s never physical, so I’ll know more after the dry, but in general.”Like I already know VIR’s [Virginia International Raceway] pretty screwed for me. That’s not being negative. I’m just being a realist. This one hopes… like it’s going to be good. And I don’t know what Kansas is going to be like, but hopefully that’s going to be kind to me. I need a bit of luck.”
Hodgson Splashes In New Jersey
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.