By Louise Cain

Bouncing back from big bike smashes is, unfortunately, part and parcel of being a bike racer. They've all been there, done that and got the scars. But every once in a while there is a crash that makes us all think - 'he was lucky to get away with that'.

One of the biggest smashes last season was British Superbike privateer rider, Dennis Hobbs. His high speed get off, whilst testing at Croft, left him - although he didn't know at the time - with a broken neck.

The crash was during a mid season test at Hobbs' local track as the team were trying to find extra speed for the second half of the season to mount a challenge to take the privateer's title.

"We were up at Croft BSB testing," explains Hobbs. "I was going through the back part of the circuit, which is probably the fastest bit. As I rolled off to take one of the corners, which is Barcroft - it's about 170mph into it - the slipper clutch locked up, and the bike threw me over the top. I went straight into a tyre wall. It was a fairly big crash, I was unconscious for a little bit, got carted off to hospital and was in hospital for 3 days. I was then discharged with whiplash, which wasn't so good really."

The fact that his neck was broken wasn't picked up on his initial admission to hospital.

"I was laid on the hospital bed, but I couldn't pick myself up off the bed," continued Hobbs. "I was there on my back and I couldn't sit myself up. I thought something isn't quite right, but I told the doctors and they just let me carry on, saying it was a bad case of whiplash. Got discharged, and got moving. I'd been to private physios just to try and get some movement back. I was out running just trying to get fit for Croft the following weekend."

Dennis managed to compete at his home round, and even scored two podiums which was not bad going with a broken neck. However Hobbs admits that it perhaps wasn't the best of ideas.

"When I look back on it, its pretty scary. I could hardly move on the bike and I was getting physio at the circuit. I managed to race, get a couple of podiums. Yeah I've been very lucky."

The severity of his injury finally came to light at Cadwell Park; "A couple of weeks later I went to Cadwell Park. I was on the bike and I lost the use of my left arm - twice! This resulted in me falling off, and its not something I do is falling off.

"For my arm to just give way and then come back, it was something that wasn't right. I saw all the medical people at the circuit, and there was a Neuro surgeon there, and he said to come down and see him at his clinic the next Friday. He advised me not to race. It was, well, the best decision I've ever made really. I went down to see him and it all kicked off from there really."

Hobbs was diagnosed with a broken C6 vertebrae and a dislocated C7 vertebrae.

Had the break gone any further, it is likely Dennis would have died.

"The fact that the surgeon said I'd have been dead rather than paralysed makes you think. I've been very, very lucky I'm still here," stated Hobbs.

The decision not to race at Cadwell was completely down Dennis. He was lying second in the BSB Privateer Cup at the time, so it was a tough call for him.

"The Cadwell Park decision was the biggest decision I've ever had to make. I'd a fair few sponsors there and the team obviously wanted me to race. It was ultimately down to me to make the decision. The medical staff advised me not to race but it was down to me, I knew something wasn't quite right. It was very tough, but if I had raced I probably wouldn't be here now."

It was a total of 5 weeks between the crash and Dennis receiving the operation that he needed. The vertebrae were replaced with a disc, a plate, a cage, four rods, four screws and eight bolts.

Now all that is behind him, Hobbs is looking to the future and has secured a ride with the Sheffield based Team Nvidia. He will be under the watchful eye of Team Manager, Brent Gladwin.

"Brent has always had a close eye on me, and I think what has impressed him the most is I still get on and ride no matter what," detailed Dennis. "I've always done my own thing in the past, it's been Mum, Dad and a few friends. I've never had the best of bikes or set up, but I've always struggled on. You never complain, you know you just have to get on with it, there are plenty of other people out there in the same or even worse situation. The fact is he (Gladwin) knows I can ride a bike. He just wants to give me the chance of doing it properly."

A competitive team ride was the next crucial career move for Dennis who hopes to challenge for the British Superbike championship within two years.

"Every rider just wants to keep on progressing and improving," claimed Hobbs. "The next stage in making my career was to get into a proper team. Now I've made that I just need to keep it going and hopefully things will work out. This year I want to finish top 6 in the championship. Hopefully have quite a few podiums and then move it on from there for next year. I've got to learn a lot this year and the team has got to learn a lot. We've just got to progress with it, we know its not going to happen over night so we have to take our time. There is no point saying I'm going to win the championship, because realistically that isn't going to happen this year. Obviously if it goes well this season we've got to be looking to win it next season.

"We have a full time mechanic, full time telemetry person and I've never had telemetry before on a bike. So they will be able to help me set the bike up. For the first time ever I'll have someone telling me what I'm actually doing wrong!"

The Nvidia team will join its fellow BSB competitors at the seasons first official test at Donington Park on Sunday 13th March.

Crash.net will also be there putting your questions to the riders you have never had the chance to meet.

If you have a question for a particular rider email your suggestion to adam@crash.net.

Those questions deemed suitable will be put to your desired rider at the test on Sunday, the Brands Hatch test on Tuesday 15th or the official launch of the 2005 BSB season on 16th March.

The interviews containing the answers to the questions will appear on Crash.net Radio shortly after the event so stay tuned!