Hodg­son in the hot seat

for the ride of his life in his side­car Chris Walker takes Neil Hodg­sonar, be­fore Hodg­son re­turns the favour

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week in Mcn - By Oli Rushby BSB RE­PORTER

Chris Walker and Neil Hodg­son were once fierce en­e­mies in the fight for a BSB ti­tle, but now they are side­car team­mates. The EX-WSB cham­pion-turned TV pun­dit agreed to have a crack in Walker’s Bri­tish championship side­car out­fit... but only if he could drive with Walker in the chair too. What could pos­si­bly go wrong?

‘I’ve taken two jour­nal­ists out so far and only one of them fell out’ CHRIS WALKER

‘I’m not go­ing to lie to you; I’ve had three large poos this morn­ing,” ex­plained a se­ri­ously ner­vous-look­ing Neil Hodg­son to MCN, sec­onds be­fore get­ting in to the side­car with former arch ri­val Chris Walker.

It’s been 16 years since the two Bri­tish heroes fought like cat and dog for the Bri­tish Su­per­bike crown in a ti­tle bat­tle that is still re­garded as the great­est the se­ries has ever wit­nessed.

While Hodg­son is now a Mo­togp TV pun­dit for BT Sport, Walker con­tin­ues rac­ing after mak­ing a shock switch to the Bri­tish Side­car championship this year. Their ha­tred of one an­other may have mel­lowed as they both grew older, but their ri­valry re­mains just as in­tense. In the pub ear­lier this year at the MCN Lon­don show, Walker dared Hodg­son to jump in the chair of his Kawasaki-pow­ered side­car – a dare that Hodg­son re­luc­tantly ac­cepted.

“I told Neil he’d have to come in the side­car at some point and I could tell he re­ally wasn’t keen but didn’t want to say no!” said Walker. “In the end, we came to a deal that saw us agree that if he would ride on the side of me, I’d then let him drive the thing while I’m sat in the chair! I might be used to rac­ing these things now, but I haven’t done a pas­sen­ger lap since I went on the side of Mick Bod­dice in 1996 and that scared the crap out of me!”

Hav­ing heard of the deal, MCN helped make it hap­pen along with MSV and where bet­ter to bring the former archri­vals to­gether than Oul­ton Park, the cir­cuit in where Hodg­son and Walker had their now fa­mous last cor­ner clash all those years ago? (See next page.)

“While Chris and I have got on for a lot of years now, we were proper ri­vals back in the day. We re­ally didn’t like each other, I mean re­ally didn’t like each other and even now we can’t agree on who was at fault in that in­ci­dent at Lodge all those years ago!” said Hodg­son.

“In Fe­bru­ary when we raced each other at the MCN Show, we knocked lumps out of each other and if I’m be­ing com­pletely hon­est, I might have been out of or­der and a bit over ag­gres­sive on him and he wasn’t so bad to­wards me so I came here think­ing he owed me one! I was fully ex­pect­ing to­day to be pay­back time and I would de­serve it too! As we set off down pit-lane I was ter­ri­fied as I didn’t know what Chris was go­ing to do to me!”

Rolling back into pit-lane after a three-lap stint in the chair, Hodg­son was shak­ing his head while Walker, vi­sor up, was laugh­ing. Tak­ing his hel­met off, a red- faced Hodg­son was buzzing with ex­cite­ment.

“This feels so wrong! I gen­uinely thought he was go­ing to have me out of the back of that. Ten years ago he’d have made sure I fell out; it seems he’s got a bit more ma­ture in his old age!” laughed Hodg­son.

“It was more slip­pery and smaller than I ex­pected but the worst thing was that you don’t re­ally know where the han­dles are! I was try­ing to move and all of a sud­den he ac­cel­er­ated and I went for a han­dle that wasn’t there and in­stantly shat my­self in panic!

“I didn’t have a clue how quick he was go­ing to go or what he was go­ing to do! All I knew is I could get f**king hurt do­ing this, so when I lost my grip I proper pan­icked be­cause it’s not a joke, it wouldn’t be funny for me if I was off the back at 100mph! The arm pump is

in­sane, you go from hav­ing ab­so­lutely none to hav­ing full arm pump, but it is an in­cred­i­ble feel­ing.”

While Hods­gon was clearly re­lieved to get back into pit lane with­out fall­ing out, Walker main­tained that he never had any­thing to worry about!

“I know Neil was scared of what I might do to him, but hon­estly it’s not like that now! Ten years ago, I’d have been more up for scar­ing him as there was a long pe­riod where we re­ally didn’t like each other. It might have made a funny story if he’d been out the back but I’d have felt bad!

“I revved it a bit over the start fin­ish straight and braked real hard in to Hizzy’s to give him the sen­sa­tion of what it’s like, but I didn’t want to lose him! You have to re­spect the bike, it’s 200bhp and weighs 250kg and hav­ing lost a jour­nal­ist ear­lier this year I know full well how they don’t work with­out the pas­sen­ger!”

After a few ad­just­ments to the side­car, in­clud­ing mov­ing the rear brake pedal a lit­tle fur­ther back so Hodg­son could just squeeze into what Walker calls ‘the bath­tub’, and the duo were back out on track with Hodg­son in con­trol.

“Driv­ing the side­car is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent world,” Hodg­son con­fessed after com­plet­ing his stint. “It’s much more phys­i­cal than I thought, my arms are still hurt­ing and I train, so it’s not like I’ve done noth­ing but I found it re­ally dif­fi­cult.

“The po­si­tion is cramped and to­tally alien and noth­ing from rid­ing a bike trans­fers across so I gen­uinely can’t be­lieve how well Chris has done to fin­ish sec­ond in a Bri­tish Championship race. There’s no front brake and that made me re­ally un­easy as on a bike I’d never ever use the rear brake so it was a com­pletely weird con­cept for me hav­ing noth­ing to go for with my right hand!

“It feels so much quicker be­cause you are ly­ing on the ground. It felt bloody quick for me and he was tak­ing it steady! I did smile when we went around Shell Oils as the cor­ner speed is phe­nom­e­nal, if you could carry that sort of cor­ner speed on a bike you’d be un­stop­pable!

“I’ve al­ways re­spected any­one who races and I’m not one of those guys who hates side­car rac­ers, but I def­i­nitely have a height­ened re­spect for them after this, both the driver and pas­sen­ger!”

That fa­mous race

Six­teen years ago Hodg­son and Walker were two young, hun­gry rid­ers des­per­ate to make a name for them­selves. They went head to head on equally com­pet­i­tive ma­chin­ery in what went on to be renowned as the fiercest fight so far in the se­ries’ 20-year his­tory.

Their ri­valry and ti­tle fight re-ig­nited their ca­reers on the world stage, with Hodg­son go­ing on to be­come a World Su­per­bike Cham­pion in 2003 while Walker re­mained a fans’ favourite as he con­tin­ued to race in both the World and Bri­tish se­ries after los­ing out on the 2000 Bri­tish Su­per­bike crown.

The last time Walker and Hodg­son were on track to­gether at Oul­ton Park was back in 2000, where their ri­valry would be put to the test in a tan­talis­ing bat­tle for the lead.

After Hodg­son had stormed from the back of the grid to win the open­ing race, Walker was de­ter­mined to stop him in the sec­ond out­ing and the re­sult was one of the most out­ra­geous bat­tles in Bri­tish Su­per­bike his­tory.

The pair came to­gether mul­ti­ple times, but it was one col­li­sion that de­fined the re­sult as the duo col­lided at Lodge (the fi­nal turn) on the last lap while fight­ing for the lead. A stew­ards’ in­quiry ruled Hodg­son at fault, but to this day the pair still bicker about who was to blame.

‘All I knew is I could get f***ing hurt do­ing this, so when I lost my grip I proper pan­icked’ NEIL HODG­SON

‘It’s much more phys­i­cal than I thought, my arms are still hurt­ing’ NEIL HODG­SON

“We were try­ing to make a name for our­selves back then and we’d do what­ever it took to win,” ex­plained Hodg­son. “Some­times that meant be­ing dirty and that’s where we were!”

Walker added “Back then we had to be tough to com­pete against one an­other but when we look back now, that de­ter­mi­na­tion to beat him and his de­ter­mi­na­tion to beat me de­fined our ca­reers and we both went on to be­come fairly suc­cess­ful, es­pe­cially Neil with win­ning a World Championship.

“Brak­ing into Lodge in the side­car I did have a flash­back to that day 16 years ago. We were arch en­e­mies but over the last decade we’ve be­come closer. We don’t see a lot of one an­other, we don’t live in the same part of the world and he trav­els the globe do­ing GPS but I en­joy watch­ing him on the telly and I hope he fan­cies a side­car race one day!”

Hodg­son and Walker haven’t been this close to­gether since they were crash­ing into one an­other in BSB

The flushed faces of two mid­dle-aged men who’ve just ex­pe­ri­enced a side­car

‘Just shove your­self in a bit fur­ther Neil, then we can get go­ing’ A few last words of advice from Walker be­fore the out­fit hits the Oul­ton cir­cuit Hodg­son looks like he knows what he’s do­ing, but un­der the vi­sor he’s scream­ing

Don’t worry, Hodg­son isn’t ac­tu­ally be­ing sick over the side of the ma­chine Now it’s Walker’s turn to get a taste of his own medicine at Oul­ton Park Hodg­son has a new re­spect for Walker’s rookie re­sults in the side­car world Flash­back to 2000 and it’s ham­mer and tongs be­tween Walker and Hodg­son Pro­fes­sional side­car pas­sen­ger Justin Sharp gives Hodg­son some vi­tal sur­vival tips as he tries to squeeze him­self on to what can only be best de­scribed as the tea tray-sized plat­form.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.