Neil Hodgson is a BSB and WSBK champion and a MotoGP commentator for BT Sport. He’s got his finger on the pulse in the MotoGP, WSBK, and BSB paddocks and his encyclopaedic knowledge of bike racing make him perfectly placed to preview the season ahead.
“This season sees the introduction of a complex series of rules designed to stop Johnny Rea running away win a fourth consecutive title. Aimed at reducing the performance gulf between teams, one of the key new measures will see rev limits replacing weight penalties. What this means is that if a bike or a team keeps disappearing off into the distance, the race organisers will turn down the revs and give other riders more in an attempt to even things out. Will it change anything? I’m not so sure…
“Johnny Rea is still the stand-out rider of the series, and he’s won his titles through sheer talent, dedication and hard work. He really has everything as a rider – he’s fast, fearless, consistent and mentally strong. He’s the class act of the championship, and he wouldn’t be out of place in MotoGP. Yes, he’s got the best bike, but he’s so smooth, so aggressive and he rarely makes mistakes. He definitely starts the season as favourite.
“Chaz Davies was his closest rival in 2017, but fell away as the season progressed. He was having to override the bike to stay in touch with Rea, and that saw him suffer his fair share of crashes, costing him important points in the title chase. I think the Ducati will be harder hit by the new rules than the Kawasaki, but the title fight will still between these two.
“As for the rest, I think Leon Camier will cause a few surprises on the Honda. Last year’s bike was a dog, but Honda won’t accept that, and I’m sure they’re working hard with the Ten Kate team to fix the bike’s shortcomings. Camier performed miracles during his time on the MV, consistently delivering strong performances on an ageing package, and I think he could be one of the dark horses of 2018.
“As could Alex Lowes. He’s now established himself in the Yamaha team, and the bike is just getting stronger and stronger. He’s fast, fearless and he’s matured a lot this past season. He knows he’s fast, he’s got the talent, and has demonstrated to himself he can run at the sharp end. This could well be the year he fights for race wins, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he strung a title challenge together. Watch this space…”
“I honestly thought 2017 was going to be the year Leon Haslam finally won the title. And he would have done bar a nasty crash at the final round at Brands. He had a commanding 32-point lead going in to the final three races, but his brakes failed at 172mph in the final race on the approach to Hawthorns, leaving him with a broken left ankle and right wrist. He’s incredibly tough though, and I’m confident he’ll be there come the showdown – he’s fast, has a point to prove and he’ll be hungrier than ever for success.
“As will Shakey Byrne. The six-time champion will be desperate to add to his record number of titles after taking back-to-back honours for the first time in his illustrious career. The 84-time BSB race winner didn’t expect to land the crown after an especially tough 2017, and he’ll be keen to prove that he’s still the man to beat.
“I love the showdown format and I’m certain there will be a whole host of winners again throughout the season. The likes of Dan Linfoot, Peter Hickman, Glenn Irwin, Jake Dixon, Josh Brookes Christian Iddon and Jason O’Halloran can all win races, and I expect Tarran Mackenzie will fly on the McAms Yamaha. He’s only 22, his stint in Moto2 will have helped his racecraft and I’m sure he’ll relish the challenge of riding the superbike. Then there’s the British weather – that will definitely throw in the odd surprise too.”
Neil Hodgson has joined forces with Niall Mackenzie to create a new insurance company – Mackenzie Hodgson. Specialising exclusively in motorcycle insurance, the company prides itself on offering riders the right cover at a competitive price while providing best service and attention in the case of a claim.