With all the talk of the back to front challenge on the table at this weekend’s round of BSB, we thought it’d be a good chance to look back at that race from the 2000 BSB season. You know the one, Neil Hodgson stalled his bike on the grid at Outlon Park and was forced to start from the back. In a championship year that he eventually went on to win, Neil was on fine form. Watch the full race below and then read what some of the characters from back in the day think of it now.
James Haydon – The competitor
That was such a great race. I remember it so clearly, it was an incredible ride from Neil. He did so well in the early laps to come through so quickly, easily one of his best ever rides, certainly the most aggressive. The truth is I was gutted to lose that race. It was the start of months of physical problems for me. I’d been involved in a massive accident on the M1 (20 cars involved) as a passenger in my manager’s car. I didn’t know, but I had a prolapsed disc in my neck. My right arm and hand kept going numb. By the end of that race I was opening the throttle with a flat straight hand and was using my forearm in places. It was a fucking nightmare, ruined my season and my hopes of winning the championship. At the time it would have sounded like sour grapes if I’d told the truth.
Let’s be honest, when I saw he was starting from the back I thought ‘Result!’. He was stronger than me all season and I guessed he might come back past me in the race. It was also the year he turned himself round too. He was was super determined and very aggressive, being at the back just motivated him more. Like everyone else, I couldn’t help but be impressed with his ride that day.
Back then we had a racers committee, a kind of collective of the team managers that used to have a say in what was going on during the season. I’m not sure the teams could get away with that kind of thing now, it’s a little bit too elitist. At the round before, Silverstone I think, Haydon stalled his bike on the line and held the race start up, everyone was sat on warmers good to go and it was all held up because of one bike. I was furious at the delay. We top tier team managers got our heads together and came up with the idea of pushing a bike to the back of the grid if it stalled or held the start up in any way. It was a way of not holding the racing up, as well as giving the rider in question a bit of a bollocking for messing up on the start line. The irony of it being one of my riders that went and stalled in the next round was not lost on me that day. Before the race I briefed Neil and team mate Niall Mackenzie on the new rule, we didn’t think it would happen to us. Neil stalled on the line and I had to push him back. The whole time I was telling him to keep calm and relax. Remember there was no showdown principal back then, and no monster money on the line. Neil rode how he rode that day because he had to if he wanted to win the championship. He got his head down and had the lead by about the eighth lap. The ride and the race were phenominal, defining moments in what I class as the golden age of the race series. If he hadn’t of grabbed the lead when he did, if it had taken a few laps more to get to the front, I think he would have taken the points for a top five finish and rolled round. But no, he got his head down and won by about a second and a half. It was a fantastic day.
There is monster Monster money on the table for any of the quick boys brave (or stupid) enough to line up for race two at the back of the grid. Fifty grand, no less. Neil Hodgson was a giant among giants back in 2000, for his efforts in this race and many others, including the ones he commentates at now, we salute him.