BEFORE the German GP this weekend at Sachsenring we spoke with Neil Hodgson about the MotoGP season so far, Honda and Marquez future British riders to watch and rider mentality.
The BSB and World Superbike champion turned BT Sport expert is also calling on Marquez to drop him on a track on which he has dominated for 10 years!
We also discussed BSB, updates to Gas It Out, and if he has any track days in the near future.
Alex, Visordown: Thanks for taking the time, Neil! Thoughts on the MotoGP season so far? You must love it in the comfortable expert seat
Neil Hodgson: It’s been a surprising season! I didn’t expect Quartararo to be so dominant, if he hadn’t had this hand pump issue in Jerez he would have won this race, and the last race was weird – of course. He’s now almost better than everyone else in terms of head and shoulders, he just has that confidence and that speed, he’s good with his consistency in the race, he’s good on this lap.
But, the beauty of MotoGP is you just don’t know what’s going to happen, the last round is the perfect example of that, we all sat there saying ‘Quartararo has this. He’s guaranteed to win and he doesn’t!
Then we had leathers-gate, didn’t we …
VD: MotoGP always leaves you guessingâ¦ Do you think there are any British riders who will take this step in the near future? Maybe Sam Lowes in Moto2?
NH: Well hopefully Sam Lowes or Jake Dixon.
Jake is having a really bad race right now which can happen from time to time in the race. If you lose a little bit of feeling with the bike and a little bit of understanding with the team – because it’s so close, Moto2 – all of a sudden you look like you’re riding really badly, but it’s not. is not the case.
Hopefully Jake can turn the tide, but I mean other than those two, in the short term there isn’t anyone who is really obvious to get into MotoGP. We will have to wait quite a few years.
Unfortunately, as always, we still seem to be Superbike oriented. I think a lot of it is because we have such a great national series, BSB is fantastic, and the riders can almost be trained in that direction and I understand that, but unfortunately for MotoGP I think we will have some years before us’ I have one.
VD: Has BSB become a big draw for young riders rather than aiming for MotoGP?
NH: The thing about aiming for MotoGP is that you have to invest a lot of money, you almost have to live in Spain from a young age, and that has to be the commitment of a family. That’s the difference, it’s not just about a runner who wants something, it’s about the family going âwell, my 13 year old son is quite special, let’s go to Spainâ. This is a great thing.
It’s almost what you have to do, it really is. That’s why I can understand that families don’t want to do this, and once you start on the British circuits, you find yourself in the British rut. You can’t blame people because like we said BSB is really attractive. Young riders will look and think ‘oh wow, I can be in BSB, then maybe go to World Superbike, and then I hope I can go to MotoGP’ – but it’s a bad road.
The only way to get into MotoGP now is to go to the Junior World Championships, to live in Spainâ¦ it sounds hard, but it is reality.
VD: So get involved from an early age, just say âthis is where I’m goingâ and keep going.
NH: Exactly. We have Brits doing that right now – Scott Ogden who is maybe 16-17 years old, he was on the weekend Junior World Championship podium in Moto3, that’s a name you don’t know. not heard of it, but some kids are doing this, and he finished on the podium.
The problem is, we have a rider in Scott Ogden doing this, whereas there are probably 20 Spanish riders, so it comes down to our chances of having one.
VD: Jack Miller did say that we can all support him while he waits, and support himâ¦ So that’s okay for now!
NH: Sounds good to me, I love Jack. He is genuine.
VD: Catalonia trials. Has Honda found its formula? Looks like they put all their money on Marquez, he took a bad run, and now they’re seriously fighting for form. Will they have reversed it during the tests? They’ve done enough laps!
NH: The problem is, when you’re this farâ¦ the bike is the worst bike on the grid. It’s weird, when you think of the 6 manufacturers, the Honda is the bike you wouldn’t want to ride. I prefer to jump on Aprilia first!
Because the gap is so big, they’ll have to find something pretty big, and in a testâ¦ it can help find a direction, but it’s usually not sorted out that way. They have a long task ahead of them.
The problem is because Marquez has been so good in the past, the Honda has been below the Ducati, Yamaha and Suzuki for a few years in my opinion, but Marquez made that difference because of its capabilities.
Now with his injuryâ¦ I think the Honda has gotten worse, and obviously Marc is not the same Marc because of his injury. So he tries to bridge that gap again, and all of a sudden, they can’t even level up with them anymore, let alone in front of them. I think this is the major problem.
VD: So Marquez tries to push and run hard, but his body can’t seem to keep up with his mentality?
NH: That’s exactly it. His brain always says all the right things, his want, his desire, he hasn’t lost his talent, but his body can’t quite do it. If you’re only a fraction of your body position or reaction, you’re down.
These boys are obviously on the limit, and Marquez lived on the limit, which is why he fell so hard. It only needs 1% off, but it’s a crash, and that’s what we’re seeing – and I have a horrible feeling it’s going to crash this weekend.
NH: I know! He’s so good on the Sachsenring, it’s a big round for Honda, for him, can he win on a circuit where he hasn’t been beaten for 10 years? What is he going to do, try harder? If he tries harder, he will fall …
I hope I am wrong by the way! I would love to see him and Honda get a result, but I don’t think that will happen.
VD: Do current drivers have more support in terms of âoff-road racingâ? With mind games and outside support, even some runners openly turning to sports psychologists to keep their mental shape there, does that give them the edge? Or is a little cigarette before the race just as good as old legends did?
NH: You know, it’s the horses for lessons, everyone is different – we mentioned Jack Miller, I can’t see Miller sitting with a sports psychologist meditating before a race. But you could see Maverick ViÃ±ales doing that. Everyone is different, and what works for some people doesn’t work for others.
Every time you watch Jack before a race he’s in the garage talking nonstop – I’ve never been like that. Before a race I felt sick, I felt bad, the pressure and how important it is, I handled it by being quiet and focusing on what I had to do, and Jack Miller does the clown – but it works for Jack! It’s interesting.
VD: We briefly touched on the upcoming rerun of the BSB season – are you going to tune in to watch this every weekend?
NH: I always watch BSB. I have always been a fan. I don’t know any ex-British rider who isn’t a BSB fan. The whole format, the way it works – I think it works great, I think Stuart Higgs does a fantastic job. Yeah, I love it.
I have a lot of friends running in it, so I’ll be nervous, cheer on my mates, hoping they do well!
Read our interview with Faye Ho and Darren Jones of FHO Racing.
VD: A question from Visordown fans, do you still do track days and a little instruction on track day?
NH: You know what, no I’m not! I did this for many years and absolutely loved it. I can’t believe how much I loved it – I never thought I would when I retired from racing!
I did this for about 7 or 8 years, but then I found myself busy with other things. It’s like anything else, if you overdo it it gets a bit the same. It’s nice to have some free time, but since I haven’t driven in ages, I feel like I would be so slow now!
Obviously I’m good friends with Niall Mackenzie, he’s doing the masterclass at Silverstone, and he keeps telling me “come on, you can have a bike, and have a day on the track yourself without teaching!” so I could do that and just take a ride for myself and not teach. When you teach, you obviously go at that person’s pace, so it would be nice to do that and get back to it.
VD: Is there a Gas It Out podcast on the way ?!
NH: Me and Gav are really fed up with each otherâ¦ No, we didn’t. Love Gav, he’s a good mate, but we did it while in lockdown, we thought we’d do something a littleâ¦ no different, because a podcast is a podcast, talking about bikes.
I told her before we did ‘I only wanna do it if it’s just you and me, and we ain’t produced like’ oh no you can’t say that, you gotta do that ‘I wanna it’s like it’s you and me at the pub having a pint, and we’ve got a decent guest. So we had some great guests, and yes I swore way too much and drank too much during them, but I loved it.
It’s not like we’ve stopped forever, but he’s had a baby and all that, he’s got his arms full of it.
VD: I know there will be a lot of demand for this, go down to the pub and record the phone for an impromptu episode!
Last thing, what are your predictions for this weekend? How do you think it’s going to play out?
NH: It’s tricky. The Sachsenring is such a unique track, it’s not like anywhere else, it’s a go-kart track, it’s all left turns, it’s weirdâ¦ I hated that! I didn’t like it at all.
But what he does, he brings the whole field closer, and the field is already near. So that’s going to make qualifying really important. I think Marquez is going to fall apart trying to win, it’s hard to call a winner. I don’t remember how Fabio gets around there, but it’s still an entertaining race – and an entertaining weekend.
But it could rain on Sunday, so who knows! Everything can happen.
VD: So your loud cry is that Marquez is struggling, so I’m going to keep an eye out for him – but if it rains, he might want to take a chance!
NH: I think he’s going to be quick, and in the dry too because obviously he’s amazing there, but I just think he sees it as his chance to win a race – which he is, but I think because of that he’ll push himself over the limit.
BT Sport is the birthplace of MotoGP in the UK. Follow all the action from the German GP live exclusively on BT Sport, including practice, qualifying and the race. The weekend action starts from 8 a.m. on Friday June 18 on BT Sport 2