From Diggers to Ducatis is the official history of GSE Racing, right from it's humble beginnings to the present day. Here we can present some extracts from the book, which reveal just how the team got to be such a dominant force in British Superbikes, and the lighter side too. You can buy it here www.dread.cc
2002: AT THE SHARP END
GSE’s second season in World Superbikes proved to be pivotal. Not only was the squad fighting for podiums on a regular basis, Neil Hodgson was fighting with his former team-mate Troy Bayliss.
Bayliss, however, was on technically superior Michelin tyres, as was Colin Edwards, so Neil, again ably backed up by James Toseland, had a real fight on his hands. From a results point of view, the team couldn’t have asked more from either of their riders, especially given they spent a lot of time together during that year.
“We only had one falling out in a five-week period we were away from home. Which is not bad for 11 blokes all together for that length of times. We were on the plane and James was behaving like a school boy,” says Colin.
“Neil was trying to get some sleep, so had a word with him and that was the only falling out through the whole trip. There was only one meeting as well. Neil’s lap-times in the second race at Kyalami were all over the place, especially when you compared them to James’. And there wasn’t any reason for his inconsistent laptimes.
“They have got offices at the back of the garages, and there was me, Neil, Darrell and Roger (Burnett, Neil’s manager) sitting in one after the lads had packed the garage up and were waiting to leave. Neil still had his leathers on. It was a long meeting,” remembers Colin.
Both Neil and James did exactly what they needed to do that year. Both scored consistent points, with Neil standing on the podium enough times to take third in the championship.
Despite being in terrific pain for the Sugo round after burning his feet in South Africa (see separate story), and would have been on the podium twice had it not been for the Japanese wildcard rider Makoto Tamada. He had to settle for just the one third place that round.
As always, England expects and as GSE Racing rolled into the British round at Silverstone, they weren’t expecting the amount of rain that fell over the weekend. Indeed, it caused some controversy. Troy Bayliss managed to fall off twice in race one and still come fifth. However, at that time the bikes were meant to be fitted with a tilt switch that cut the engine if the bike fell over. Bayliss’ Ducati didn’t cut out which caused some consternation.
Brands Hatch was one to remember for Neil and one to forget for James. At his second home round of the year, Neil managed to split Bayliss and Edwards on the all-conquering Michelins, and was only just shaded into third in race two. James, meanwhile, got a ninth and failed to finish race two.
His time was to come though and GSE didn’t have to wait long for it. After a sixth place at Assen’s race one, James finally stepped onto the podium for the first time, getting a third behind Edwards and Frankie Chili. He said that year was a great basis for his subsequent world title, and the grand piano that sponsor John Jones of HM Plant bought him as a result.
“From a team point of view, that year was superb with a third and a seventh in the World Superbike Championship,” says Colin.
James remained with the team for 2003 and was joined by ex-Kawasaki man Chris Walker. Neil moved into the factory Ducati Corse team and went on to win the title by a massive points margin, riding consistently…
2001-2003 RIDER JAMES TOSELAND
“They were three of the best years of my career. It was an English team and everyone got on so well – there was a real excitement and the team’s motivation was really high. It was a pleasure to work for them.
“GSE are one of the best teams I’ve been involved in. From Colin to the tyre man – they were all so good at their jobs. No one interfered and they just got on with their jobs, so it worked really well.
“It was a great time and the highs seriously outweighed the lows. The highs include getting my first podium in 2002, my first win in 2003 and getting third in the World Championships in 2003, when John and Kathleen Jones from HM Plant bought me a piano. That gave me the basis to win the championship later on – I couldn’t have done it without the team.”
“The low would be being new to Superbike. I remember sitting in the garage, being just 20 years-old, watching the screen and wondering how the hell they were going so fast! It was a difficult point – I thought, ‘How do I do that?’”
NEIL HODGSON AND THE FIREWALKING INCIDENT
“We were in South Africa as we a long break between the Kyalami and Sugo rounds of the championship. We had been due to go on safari in the Kruger Park so off we went, set up camp and had a nice barbecue.
“I hadn’t had a drink all year so after we had a few beers and the campfire had died down, I got talking about a programme on TV about mind over matter, so Colin bet me I couldn’t walk over the hot coals [something he strenuously denies – ED].
“Anxious to prove him wrong, as you do after a couple of beers, I did. And it hurt quite a lot. But not so much as the next day as my feet were covered in blisters. My mechanic skip had done exactly the same after me, and he was worse.
“We got to the next round and could still only barely put my race boots on. Colin went absolutely mad and told me that it was my fault and I had better get out there on the track and do something useful. He appeared to have forgotten it was his idea in the first place.”
COLIN WRIGHT AND THE BEING BA BARACUS INCIDENT
“Eating out is something the team has always done and one night we had gone to this restaurant in South Africa. There were 11 of us and I think the bill came to something like £25 all in, which was a lot cheaper than having dinner at the hotel.
“At the time we had these sort of converted vans as team transport. I was driving back one night and there was this sleeping policeman thing in the road. It was very high, but the little ramps going up it were really steep.
“I hit it at about 30mph and it was like something from The A-Team. Everyone was thrown upwards out of their seat, someone banged their head on the roof, and pens and mobile phones went everywhere.
“The ramp was about nine feet long and we cleared it but the van came down perfectly on all four wheels. It bounced at lot afterwards but the landing was as clean as you like.
“Thing was, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get the landing right on any of the other nights…”