BROOKLYN, NY, JAN. 30: Neil Hodgson will ride a Corona Honda in the 2009 AMA Pro Road Racing American Superbike Championship. The decision to put the former World Superbike champion on a Superbike, rather than the Erion Honda Daytona SportBike, was made late yesterday afternoon according to two sources briefed on the issue. The deal basically hands the American Honda road race team to Corona Honda, with the squad being run out of the American Honda race shop in Torrance, California. Corona will get the technicians under contract to Honda, Hodgson, motorcycles, and some spare parts. American Honda road race boss Ron Heben will manage the team. Confirmation of the deal is expected later today when Hodgson’s entry arrives in Daytona for the season-opening Superbike race on March 5. Hodgson was left without a ride when American Honda abruptly withdrew from road racing on December 12 for economic reasons. The decision followed Honda Motor Company’s withdraw from Formula One, also for economic reasons. Since Hodgson had signed a two-year contract in July of 2007, American Honda needed to find a solution. Among the choices were Erion Honda, Corona Honda, and a third option backed by NBA legend Magic Johnson. That group had three meetings at American Honda before the point man, Joe Lopez, was tragically killed in a racing accident at Auto Club Speedway the day before a scheduled fourth meeting. Had Hodgson raced for Erion, it would have been in the Daytona SportBike class on a CBR600RR. Hodgson’s preference was to remain in the Superbike class. As race teams, there’s no comparison. Erion Honda has been Honda’s most successful U.S. brand for years. They’ve swept the past three Formula Xtreme championships and finished second and third in the 2008 Supersport championship, with three wins in 11 races. Corona Honda's Jake Holden finished third in the 2008 Superstock championship, with a breakthrough win at Fontana that he followed up with another victory in the next race at Infineon Raceway. Whether Holden will stay with Corona Honda to form a two-rider team remains unknown. As marketing entities, there’s also no comparison. Corona Honda has the most aggressive marketing program of any of the non-factory teams and is one of the few teams with an outside the industry sponsor. Race results always played a secondary role to exposure, which is vast. On race weekends, the team places replica race bikes in retail outlets that sell Corona products. Corona also sponsored the 2007 AMA Superbike Championship season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

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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.

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