Neil, you had no desire to do the TT?
Hodgson: No, I didn’t know much about the TT. I knew the TT and everything, but when I started racing, when I was club racing and doing British championships, there was just never a thought that I would do the TT. Dad never mentioned it. And then my short-circuit racing was doing good, I started doing Grand Prix after three years of racing. So I never thought about it. It’s only when I really moved there, if anything. I wasn’t a fan of the TT at all. I thought, ‘That’s crazy.’ But then once you live there, and I’ve lived there for 13 years, I’m more of a TT fan now than I’ve ever been and I want to do it more now than I’ve ever wanted to. I’m not going to do it, but I can well see the buzz and the thought of being on a nice 600 riding down the middle of the road relatively, you know what I mean? I can imagine it’s the ultimate bike ride isn’t it?
John, how did you get to the Isle of Man?
McGuinness: Started racing on a (Kawasaki) KR1S and basically, I was riding on the road, I was crazy. Just our local roads in the Lake District, all that lot, out with my friends on public roads. Then a few of the older riders sort of had a word with my dad and said, ‘Hey, you need to get this lad off the road.’ I did motocross, but wasn’t really any good. Then I got my license to ride on the road. Me dad says I was showing off. Me dad just said, ‘Oh, you think you’re good enough, do you? Right, let’s go racing.’
McGuinness’ win in the Royal...
McGuinness’ win in the Royal London 360 Superstock race at the 2012 Isle of Man TT raised his number of wins to 19, second only to Joey Dunlop. Unfortunately, the Senior TT race — where McGuinness was expected to be a contender — was canceled due to weather.
McGuinness hurtles through...
McGuinness hurtles through the kink at Rhencullen during the 2012 Isle of Man TT Superbike race, getting airborne at 130 mph.
John McGuinness added to his...
John McGuinness added to his already legendary tally of victories at the Isle of Man TT with a win in the 2012-opening Dainese Superbike back in June.
So basically took the lights off the production bike and went to a place called Aintree, near Liverpool. It’s probably my local track; it only gets used a few times a year. I finished 27th and 31st, something like that. I had a massive reality check. Got beat by a couple of girls. I thought, ‘Oh my God…this is not quite as easy as it looks.’ (Hodgson and McGuinness laugh uproariously.)
The road racing thing, I was a fan of it when I was growing up. Like my all-time hero when I was a kid was Joey Dunlop. Like me dad would talk about going over in the ‘60s and watching the greats, the (Mike) Hailwoods, Bill Ivys, (Phil) Reads. All the men of the time. Ago (Giacomo Agostini) and stuff. It was part of the world championship, was the TT. I went over there in 1982 as a kid and I mean the first bloke to come down the hill was Joey Dunlop. Joey came down, Mick Grant, flippin’ Ron Haslam, all these guys. I was just like, at 10-years-old thinking, ‘I like that. I’m going to win one of them one day.’
When did you first race at the Isle of Man?
McGuinness: The first time I raced there was 1996, but I’d done a couple of other road races. I did the Northwest 200 in ‘94 and ’95. But I went there with nothing, never had a spare clutch lever. Me and the girlfriend went in the van. I remember having 80 quid (British pounds) in me pocket. That was enough to get me home, diesel to get me home. Somebody nicked (stole) my jeans with the 80 quid in it. And I came back after the race, clutch started slipping coming out of the roundabouts, so I broke down. And I remember going to the organizer, and I said, ‘I’ve no money.’ They’d given me the 80 quid, they covered me costs to go. And I said, ‘The 80 quid you gave me, somebody stole my wallet,’ and they actually gave me another 80 quid to go home. (They’re) a bit more passionate with the racing over there. I went to the Northwest in ‘96 with a new bike with Paul Bird as a sponsor. I went from 15th, 12th, 13ths, 14ths to being right at the front. And I remember thinking, ‘Geez, what am I doing? I’m at the front.’ Joey Dunlop, Mick Loughout, all these guys all around me, all the top road racers at the time — I couldn’t believe it. And then after the Northwest, I got a late entry for the TT in ’96.
Neil, what do you miss most about racing?
Hodgson: Nothing, nothing at all. Not one bit, not one bit. It’s that…I started racing when I was 8, I finished when I was 36. Done. I don’t miss it. And everyone’s well shocked with that. It’s f**king well hard to be at that limit all the time.
You did push yourself so hard.
Hodgson: I was a stresshead. And I pushed myself that hard. And now I’m just like, ‘There you go.’ I don’t want to do that any more. I’m lucky because I get to ride bikes all the time. I ride bikes more now doing track days and teaching, so I get the fun side of riding bikes now. Funny, isn’t it? People are really shocked. You think you’d miss the adrenaline. I could go jump on my motocross bike and get an adrenaline rush without any pressure at all. And when I’ve had enough I stop, I sit, and have a coffee.
Your last season must have been tough.
The crash that ended Hodgson’s...
The crash that ended Hodgson’s career, as his Motorpoint Yamaha R1 superbike snaps back and gets ready to slam him into the pavement at Brands Hatch during warmup for the 2010 British Superbike round.
After placing fifth in his...
After placing fifth in his first overseas trip to Daytona for the 250 GP race in 1997. McGuinness (101) returned in 1999 and 2000, winning both times (although the 1999 victory was due to winner Luis Lavado being DQ’ed for illegal fuel).
Despite his reputation as...
Despite his reputation as a road circuit specialist, many tend to forget that McGuinness (6) is also talented on the “short” circuits (not unlike his hero Joey Dunlop), nearly winning the British Supersport Championship several times, as well as being the British 250 GP champion in 1999.
Hodgson: In America it was horrendous. I was riding with one arm. Especially at Infineon (Raceway), the first ride back. It’s just all flip-flops, it’s all second-gear flip-flops, where you’re jumping around the bike. You need your arms. There’s no run-off. There’s a bit of hard braking. And I’d turn it with one arm, literally. I took off a tear-off and couldn’t get my arm back on the handlebar. That sounds theatrical; no, that’s exactly what happened. I had to go like that (making a windmill motion with his left arm.) But I had to ride, contract-wise, otherwise I’d have lost a fair bit of money — and you know what I’m like with money, John.
McGuinness: Well, it is an important part of racing. I mean you can’t go sweeping streets or whatever. Everybody’s got a job, you know. We’re doing what we’re doing, we need to be paid. I had a lot of respect for you when you retired. You just sort of walked away from it. I just hope that I can do it very shortly. I don’t want to do it forever. I mean, I still feel as good as, you know…I’m not the most in-shape person in the world, but at the moment I feel as good as ever, as strong as ever. A lot of off-road riding and stuff. I look at my bike and I think, I like the Honda TT Legends (CBR1000RR) and it does flip me switch. But I don’t want to do it forever. I’d love to be able to win and then walk away. Steve Hislop did it from the TT. He did the double on the (Honda) RC45 and said, ‘Thanks very much.’ I’ve had a fantastic TT career. I’d like to do that.
Hodgson: You’re going to so love retirement, John.