by Mike Nicks
Hodgson could benefit from Superbike turmoil
It's ten past one on Saturday in the Hannspree Ten Kate hospitality unit at Brands Hatch, and Ruben Xaus walks in and hovers round team manager Ronald Ten Kate's table. We'll talk later, Ten Kate signals to the Spanish rider, who is currently campaigning a Ducati for Italy's Sterilgarda team.
So, Ronald, how many riders does that make, chasing the most wanted seat in World Superbike racing following James Toseland's decision to move to MotoGP in 2008? The Dutchman pauses and silently starts counting on his fingers.
“Nine,” he announces. “And I've got a stack of emails from managers and riders.”
The pits during the World Superbike weekend at Brands resembled a rider job centre as they trooped by seeking that vital sit-down time with Ronald and his uncle Gerrit, the motors behind the Ten Kate success machine, and with other team managers. Neil Hodgson, the 2003 world superbike champion, was there, hungry to race again after spending a year mainly testing. Jonathan Rea, fresh from four victories this year in British superbikes, was networking.
So was Leon Haslam, who at 24 has to flee the British scene if he's not to be sucked into it forever. And Leon Camier, fifth in BSB points at the moment. And Craig Jones, the 22-year-old World Supersport contender on the team Reve Ekerold Honda, who hankers after a TK Supersport deal. British champion Ryuichi Kiyonari was not there, but a WSB place will apparently be engineered for him next year.
Consider, too, the MotoGP riders who could be pounding out a Ten Kate-bound email as we speak. Alex Barros, 36, and Carlos Checa, 34, are craftsman motorcycle racers who can hone a machine and bring the ship home in one piece.
“It's not as simple as just choosing the fastest young rider,” Ronald stressed. “There's a new Fireblade coming out for 2008, so we need a rider who can develop it.”
And just to add to his confusion, he has to figure out whether to promote his new World Supersport champion Kenan Sofuoglu, 23, to the superbike team.
You've got to figure that there's going to be room for Hodgson in the movement that will take place in superbikes this autumn. At 33, he has pedigree, experience, and desire.
And superbike promoters FG Sport desperately need a major Briton – or more – to keep the crowds healthy at its two UK rounds next year.
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