The battling Brits dominated qualifying for Saturday’s Daytona 200, with American Honda’s Neil Hodgson edging Attack Kawasaki’s Chaz Davies in a head-to-head dual for the pole position.
Hodgson’s reward was a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona wrist watch.
Neil Hodgson’s pole, which establishes a record by virtue of a slightly shortened layout, was the first for a British rider since Paul Smart took the pole for the 1974 Daytona 200 aboard a Suzuki TR-750.
It was the third, and last, of Smart’s three pole positions.
Neil Hodgson is aiming to do better than Smart did in the 1974 race. Smart finished ninth in a race won by Giacomo Agostini from Kenny Roberts.
“It’s definitely a big deal, really a big deal,” Hodgson said.
“If you ask anybody in racing a lot of people know that if you get pole at Daytona you win a Daytona Rolex. It’s sort of made it quite special event, quite prestigious. That side of it’s important.
“The biggest thing for me is the race. I’m sure Chaz will feel the same.
“It’s the race that everybody remembers. Pole’s great, but I’ll forget about that tomorrow morning. I’ll be thinking about my race set-up.
“As far as bragging rights go, I’m struggling on the superbike so I’m going to keep my mouth shut.
“It’s an honor for me and Chaz to be racing over here in America, it’s a great series. I love the racing, I love the atmosphere in the paddock.
“I just feel more so in my case, because obviously not racing last year, to be on a factory team with Honda, it’s just great.”
In Thursday’s session, held under cloudless blue skies on a warm, sunny day, Hodgson continued on the good form he’d shown in practice on Wednesday when he was the fastest of the 71-rider field.
Yesterday’s time surprised him, partly because he’d concentrated on the CBR1000RR Superbike at the expense of the Formula Xtreme 600.
“Honestly - I am not joking now - I've not changed it once,” Hodgson said of the 600.
“I've not done one click. Nothing. It's weird. You jump off the Superbike, and on the Supersport, obviously, we've got the new Superbike, and we're having some issues at the moment, it's getting the bike dialed in.
Despite setting a record time, Thursday’s qualifying session wasn’t without it’s drama.
Early in the session he ran off the track near the signaling area, rejoined the tarmac, then was run the track a second time by Aaron Gobert in the right hand turn five dogleg.
“The strangest thing was the fact that I ended up on the grass,” he said. “I've never done that before. I don't know what was going on. I glanced over to my pit board, and then looked forward, and all I could see was green.
Not a Kawasaki, just the grass. So yeah. That Turn five is definitely a little bit weird. It's not my favorite corner.”
That run-in allowed Chaz Davies to join up with Neil Hodgson and the pair went head to head for a little over two laps before Davies slowed.
“It was really annoying for me, because Chaz got a bit of a slipstream off me, passed me, and then I couldn't stay with him, really,” Hodgson said with a laugh.
“I didn't quite get the slipstream back, so I feel like he owes me one.”
Very late in the session, Hodgson was in control and on a flyer when he tucked the front end and crashed, again in turn five.
The Isle of Man resident had the wind knocked out of him, but he was soon on his feet and able to return to the pits under his own power.
He went back out for the end of the session, but wasn’t able to improve his time.
He finished with a best lap of 1:39.348. Teammate Miguel Duhamel, fourth today behind last year’s winner Steve Rapp, took the 2007 pole with a time of 1:41.095.
Next on the agenda is Saturday’s race and Chaz Davies would love to win.
Davies said: “It would mean a lot, to be honest with you. It’d be a pretty big deal, but one step at a time.
“You’ve got to be realistic and look at the competition. You know how hot qualifying was today.
“And I think there’s a lot of people with a very good package. We’ve got a great package ourselves.
“There’s probably six riders with a shot at winning the race, so it’s all up in the end. It’s quite exciting.”