Former World Superbike Champion Neil Hodgson announced his retirement from the sport today, the Brit unable to recover from the serious shoulder injury he first suffered just over a year ago while motocrossing in Southern California.Hodgson never fully recovered from the shoulder injury, but opted to return to racing for another go at it this year in the British Superbike Series with Rob McElnea’s Motorpoint Yamaha team. But Hodgson crashed in practice for the season opener and re-injured the shoulder. After getting it looked at again yesterday by a specialist in England, Hodgson made his decision.”It’s a big day, obviously, in announcing my retirement,” Hodgson said today via telephone from England. “It feels a little weird. I still feel young, but I know it’s the right decision. It’s not something I just thought about overnight. I’ve been thinking about it ever since Brands Hatch. I’ve really struggled with my shoulder and then when I crashed on it again it was like, ‘What am I doing here?’ I’ve always said that I wouldn’t do this sport for the money. You want to sit on that startline knowing that you’re there to go for the win and I just couldn’t face it. I knew I couldn’t do the job I needed to do because of my shoulder, so there was no point in doing it. I had a good deal this year with a lot of personal sponsors because I came back to England, so I’m turning my back on an easy pay day, but my pride is more important.”There’s some irony in the fact that Hodgson’s career ended at one of the very same places where it took off – Brands Hatch. Hodgson crashed there in practice for this year’s British Superbike Series opener and landed on the injured shoulder, effectively forcing him out of racing – 10 years after what he calls his greatest year of racing when he won as a wild card at both Donington Park and Brands Hatch on his GSE Ducati.”The best part was when I won as a wild card in 2000,” Hodgson said. “That was like a peak – that was the top for me as far as the sheer entertainment of racing. That was it. That was by far the best moment.”Hodgson’s performance in those two races and his efforts in winning the 2000 British Superbike Series after a season-long war with Chris Walker led him back to World Superbike racing in 2001 with Ducati. In 2003, he was crowned World Champion.”I don’t feel negative about retiring,” Hodgson said. “It feels weird, but I’m not negative about it. I genuinely feel pretty blessed that I’ve had a good 20 years road racing. I never thought I could have achieved what I achieved. I met so many nice people and seen so many nice things doing World Championship racing and living in America. I’ve had such a good time so it’s definitely a positive. I’m not like, ‘Oh, I’m really miserable that I’m retiring and I still feel like I could beat the world.’ I’m not like that at all. I did 10 times better than I ever thought I could do and really enjoyed it all. Even when I first started, there were a lot of young lads who were faster than me, but I just kept going and thankfully I earned a bit of money.”Hodgson also points to his seasons in AMA racing as some of his best memories.”I had a real good experience in racing in America and living in America was actually a dream come true,” Hodgson said. “I’m going over there again in a few weeks to take a bit of a break and will watch the last Supercross.”As for the future…”I don’t have a master plan just yet because it’s early,” Hodgson said. “I’ve always done a bit of TV work over here that I’ve really enjoyed doing so I might do a bit of that. I have some outside business interests. I could surprisingly fill a day quiet easily working and getting stuck into stuff. I’d also like to do something with fitness… a training school or something. I’m just going to let the dust settle a little bit and see if anything comes in of interest and then make a plan.”Hodgson’s Career Recap…Hodgson started his career on 125cc GP two-strokes and was the British 125cc Champion in 1992 at the age of 18. From there he went to GPs full time and in 1995 went to the 500cc class where he rode a Yamaha to 11th in the championship.In 1996 he went World Superbike racing for the first time and finished 10th in the title chase on a Ducati. In ’97 he ended up ninth in the championship and switched to Kawasaki for the 1998 series and finished 11th. He won the British Superbike Championship in 2000 after a battle with Chris Walker that will be long remembered. It was also in 2000 that Hodgson regained the attention of the World Superbike Series when he won as a wild card at Brands Hatch and Donington Park. In 2003, Hodgson reached the pinnacle of superbike racing when he won the World Superbike Championship on a Ducati.In 2004, Hodgson raced with the d’Antin Ducati team in MotoGP, but it was a miserable season and he ended up 17th in the series. In 2005, Hodgson came to America to race in the AMA Superbike class with Ducati. He scored his only AMA Superbike win at Road America in the rain. In 2006 he was back with the Parts Unlimited team in AMA racing and ended up fifth in the series.In 2007, Hodgson worked as a test rider for Ducati in both MotoGP and World Superbike and had a one-off ride for the Corona Extra Honda team in the AMA series, finishing fifth at Laguna Seca. He raced full time with Honda the following season and ended up sixth in the championship. In 2009, he was back on the Corona Honda CBR1000RR, but suffered the shoulder injury early on, though he was able to return to action late in the season.
Paul Carruthers | Editor
Paul Carruthers took over as the editor of Cycle News in 1993 after serving as associate editor since starting his career at the publication in 1985. Carruthers has covered every facet of the sport in his near-28-year tenure at America's Daily Motorcycle News Source.