Motorcycling: Time is right for Hodgson

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The Independent Online
If ever Neil Hodgson is to step out from the shadow of his illustrious team-mate, Carl Fogarty, then tomorrow at Donington Park provides an opportune moment.

Round three of the World Superbike championship could prove the arena in which the 23-year-old works Ducati rider records his first WSB victory. A fourth place in a downpour at Misano, Italy, in the previous round compensated for failing to finish either race in Australia.

Hodgson, who spent an unspectacular year racing 500cc grands prix before returning to WSB, fell at McLeans last year, breaking his wrist after recording a blistering qualifying time.

"I felt terrible last year," he said, "because I let the fans down. Because of my time in GPs I didn't have such a big following in the UK and I really wanted to show what I could do. I am determined to do better this year."

Fogarty, twice world champion, back with Ducati after a glum season riding a Honda, poses the main threat to such ambitions. The Blackburn Bullet believes he is quite capable of breaking the track record if the conditions are right. "Whether I go fast depends on if I can get the bike set up -it'll be tough but I don't think it will be impossible."

Both Britons are more than aware of the challenge presented by the current series leader, John Kocinski. The temperamental American now holds a 14- point advantage after he coasted to twin victories in Italy and has declared his intent to return to 500s next season. Success on the Honda RC45 tomorrow will bolster his case for a NSR 500cc mount.

Yet Fogarty, ever confident in his own abilities, is unimpressed. "Kocinski will struggle at Donington," he predicted. "He likes to have the Honda set up to steer real quick and has the front wheel pulled in almost under the engine. He has never done very well at Donington."

Spanish Grand Prix qualifying, Digest, page 31