Neil Hodgson has been steadily improving his times at the Californian Speedway (Pic: Henny Ray Abrams)

Neil Hodgson has been steadily improving his times at the Californian Speedway (Pic: Henny Ray Abrams)

 

AMA: Neil Hodgson - 'another tough day in the office'

By Henny Ray Abrams -

 07 February 2008 16:29

American Honda’s Neil Hodgson called the second day of testing “another tough day in the office. It’s always tough around Fontana.”

Neil Hodgson finished the two-day, all teams test at California Speedway with a best unofficial lap of 1:24.1.

That put him right in the thick of the second group of riders behind the dominant Yoshimura Suzukis of Ben Spies and Mat Mladin who soared into record territory.

But the lap was well up on senior teammate Miguel Duhamel who struggled to a best Superbike lap of 1:25.29 on a lower spec Fireblade.

Neil Hodgson joked: “I’ve hit a plateau about 11 o’clock on the first day.”

“And I’ve improved today by about three-tenths consistently. I’ve gone quite a bit faster. I did a 24.1 in the end, which is not a bad lap time, but your sort of average time is like a 24.8, 24.7, which is not quick enough.

“We’re not a bazillion miles away. It’s a brand new bike and like I say, we’re still at the early stages. And I’m not riding as good as I can.

“I’m still building an understanding of the bike and my confidence is building. I think there’s more in it for me, definitely as well.”

The engine in Neil Hodgson’s Fireblade wasn’t at race spec, but it is being constantly upgraded. It was fitted with aftermarket pistons, a version two spec head, and HRC kit cams.

Titanium rods are on order, as are better pistons. Those will allow the engine to spin to 15,000, up from the current 14,500 and well up on last year’s 13,500.

There was also a new Akropovic exhaust, replacing the HRC kit part last seen at the Daytona test. When the engine if fully developed, the team expects it to make between four and six more horsepower than last year’s, while being much lighter.

The new bike is so light that the team has had to add about 10lbs. of ballast.

The slippery 2.3-mile road course squeezed inside the banked California Speedway tri-oval is “a tough track because there’s no grip and it’s all change of direction,” which favours the Yoshimura Suzukis, who consider this their home track.

“We made some improvements to the bike. We’re definitely learning a lot.

“The problem is we’ve been doing a lot of testing at Buttonwillow and we’ve got actually good grip around there. So we’ve not a lot of issues.

“And you come here where there’s no grip and the bike’s doing nothing you want it to do and you’re trying to search for grip and you can’t find it.

“It’s good that we tested here, but it’s tough.”

On the first day of the test it was clear that Neil Hodgson was adapting to the upgraded electronics. His throttle application was halting and he struggled in turn one, a silly left hand dip off the banked speedway through a series of cones and fake curbing.

“The electronic side of things, as we all know, is a minefield anyway, and it’s hard to not waste two days on just doing that. We were just sort of getting into that scenario a little bit and we’ve just said, let’s just stop, let’s work on the setting a bit here because we’re just doing that.

“We’re just scratching the surface as far as the electronic side of the bike goes. Miguel’s running pretty much nothing.

“The team’s learning, I’m learning. Hopefully we can get some information through Japan and the other teams to try to help us as well.”