Hodg­son gets a MCN’S guest tester Neil Ian­none’s race­dream ride on An­drea GP16 at win­ning Du­cati Des­mosedici Misano. Hold on tight! Con­tin­ued over

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Comment - By Michael Guy MCN SPORTS EDI­TOR

Weigh­ing in at just 157kg with over 270bhp on tap, Mo­togp ma­chines are the finest mo­tor­cy­cles the hu­man race can pro­duce, ca­pa­ble of mind-bog­gling lap times, 63-de­gree lean an­gles and top speeds well in ex­cess of 200mph. But while they might be the most ca­pa­ble bikes in the world, what are they ac­tu­ally like to ride?

End-of-sea­son tests for the world mo­tor­cy­cle press used to be an an­nual oc­cur­rence af­ter the fi­nal round of the sea­son at Va­len­cia, but the global have-a-go ses­sions were brought to a halt way back in 2007 fol­low­ing a run of ex­pen­sive crashes.

Nine years later and MCN’S guest road tester and BT Sport Mo­togp pre­sen­ter Neil Hodg­son is about to leave pit lane on the very Du­cati Des­mosedici GP16 on which An­drea Ian­none se­cured his first vic­tory since 2010 at the Red Bull Ring this sum­mer.

It’s taken close to a decade for any man­u­fac­turer to let a civil­ian out on their price­less ma­chine and even then it’s not a ‘nor­mal’ rider, it’s Hodg­son, a man that still has a place in Du­cati’s heart hav­ing won the World Superbike cham­pi­onship for them back in 2003.

Af­ter tak­ing a few min­utes to calm down, Hodg­son spoke to MCN about the once-in-a-life­time ex­pe­ri­ence. This is what he said…

Noth­ing pre­pares you

“I’ve only rid­den road bikes since I stopped rac­ing in 2009 but I’ve done about 80 days on track so far this year in­clud­ing five days in Au­gust, so I do a lot of track miles. I’ve also rid­den all of the lat­est road go­ing su­per­bikes when I’ve been test­ing with MCN, but noth­ing pre­pared me for this.

“I was ex­tremely ner­vous, not only be­cause I was rid­ing a Mo­togp race win­ner, but be­cause I was rid­ing at an of­fi­cial Mo­togp test and I was on track with the Aprilia, Du­cati and KTM Mo­togp and test rid­ers.

“I’ve also been rid­ing for the last six years with a road gear shift (one down, five up) whereas on this bike – be­cause of the seam­less shift gear­box – it’s the op­po­site. In fact it’s six down with neu­tral right at the top that can only be en­gaged by pulling a spe­cial lever on the bars. As a re­sult my brain was flat-out re­mind­ing me not to go the wrong way and blow the thing up by chang­ing down a gear when I should be chang­ing up. That would have been a bad way to start the test!”

This bike is plain weird

“I be­lieve that your ini­tial re­ac­tion when you first get on a mo­tor­bike is the most ac­cu­rate. As hu­man be­ings we have the abil­ity to adapt and ab­sorb so quickly that you soon get used to what’s hap­pen­ing. My ini­tial impression was that it was just plain weird. It felt long and low, like a chop­per. It felt rock solid and like it had been stretched – the ab­so­lute op­po­site to what you think a Mo­togp bike would be like.

“You ex­pect it to be so nim­ble and for it to be fall­ing to the in­side of the cor­ner and that you’ll be run­ning over the in­side kerb. But it’s just not like that. It is so hard to turn – I got to turn four and thought ‘sh**, I’m go­ing to run off the out­side of the track’.”

It’s so phys­i­cal…

“Mo­togp has changed. Com­pared to when I raced there the bikes have so much more power and you have to utilise that, and as a re­sult the nim­ble­ness has been sac­ri­ficed.

“It’s a new school of rid­ing and it’s so much more phys­i­cal. As a rider I sit in the bike, but if you ride this Du­cati like that it sim­ply won’t turn. Now you need so much up­per body strength to hang on. I’m not used to rid­ing with my head un­der­neath my in­side han­dle­bar, but that is the tech­nique you have to use to get the bike to turn. The GP16 is so long and low there is no pitch un­der brak­ing and no weight trans­fer when you’re rid­ing at my speed – and that just made things worse.”

… But it feels in­cred­i­ble

“The power is ridicu­lous. The mo­ment you see the exit of the cor­ner and you get on the gas you’re in heaven. It’s ex­actly how I’ve al­ways wanted a bike to be. The feel­ing is in­cred­i­ble. I’ve raced in WSB and Mo­togp and back then it was a con­stant bat­tle to keep the front wheel on the ground. I spent my ca­reer lit­er­ally climb­ing all over the front of

the bike and stamp­ing on the back brake to stop wheel­ies.

“This bike is dif­fer­ent. Once you un­der­stand the grip you have and trust the elec­tron­ics you can be so ag­gres­sive with the throt­tle. You can go straight to 100% throt­tle on cor­ner exit and it’s like be­ing smashed in the back with a bat with the front wheel hov­er­ing a few cen­time­tres off the ground and the throt­tle on the stop. But it’s not phys­i­cal, you just sit there with the wheel float­ing and the throt­tle pinned. The per­for­mance is ab­so­lutely mind-blow­ing.

“When you’re ac­cel­er­at­ing it gives a glid­ing sen­sa­tion or a feel­ing that the front is surf­ing across the track, I don’t know how else to ex­plain it. Be­cause of the seam­less gear­box, you don’t get any front wheel bounce when you change gear. It doesn’t feel like a wheelie, the rear just grips and pro­pels

The ten­sion is build­ing as Hodg­son pre­pares to ride Ian­none’s ac­tual Des­mosedici

The last thing you want to be do­ing is wor­ry­ing where the track goes un­leashey­ou­can’tsee­his­face,bu­tit’sgotre­liefwrit­te­nallover­it­cir­ca270bh­pready­tobed He’s no or­di­nary rider but even Hodg­son found the Desmo a chal­lenge ‘Just don’t crash it…’ A fi­nal warnin

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