Peter Goddard qualified a somewhat disappointing 27th on Benelli's World Superbike debut at Misano after finding his new three-cylinder mount was lacking in the grip department around the 2.52-mile circuit despite improving on his Friday time by more than half a second in final qualifying.

Australia's Peter Goddard has struggled from a lack of grip with his new Benelli Tornado 900 at Misano in the lead-up to tomorrow's eighth round of the World Superbike Championship motorcycle series in Italy. Goddard is making his championship comeback at Misano, and also providing Italian manufacturer Benelli with its debut in the series.

In yesterday's opening practice and qualifying sessions the 36-year-old from Wollongong was unable to ride with the same Dunlop tyres, which he used when testing the Benelli earlier this month. The 1997 World Endurance Champion was also hampered by an overheating engine in one of his two race machines but still managed to end the day 23rd overall.

Despite the problems, Goddard set a best lap of 1-min 38.039-secs around the 4km circuit in. In today's second qualifying session he recorded a quicker lap of 1-min 37.521-secs (an improvement of 0.518-secs), but slipped to 27th position and will start on the seventh row of the grid.

"With a new bike you always expect some problems," quoted the vastly experienced rider who also developed the highly successful Aprilia RSV 1000 in 1999. "But we've had a few more than we needed. Yesterday we had to run a hard-compound tyre and we struggled for grip. Today we tried a softer tyre similar to what we'd tested on and it was better."

"Another thing yesterday was we lost water from the engine in my best bike. The temperature light was flashing so I had to stop and switch to my other bike. The second bike runs an engine with smaller valves and in theory it shouldn't be as good, but it was actually quicker around the race-track," added Goddard. "Our lap times are slower than when we tested, it was very windy yesterday and it hurt our top speeds. We're improving all the time, but the rear is still sliding around with too much wheelspin."

Despite being a 'home' event for the factory Benelli team, Misano's bumpy nature doesn't necessarily suit the Tornado 900 triple and Goddard had extra worries to contend with apart from the reliability issues. "Misano has a bumpy, old surface and it's hard to get the tyres to grip," he added. "It's a bit like Laguna Seca (in the United States) in that respect. The team are putting a new engine in my best bike and I'll try that in the warm-up tomorrow to see what works best. It's going to be hard starting
so far back, but our lap times in race-trim are better than where we've qualified. If I can make a good start I think it's possible to finish around 15th or so. If we could score some championship points this weekend it would be pretty good considering the bike has never been raced before."

Briton Neil Hodgson secured pole position at Misano on a GSE Racing Ducati after clocking the quickest time of 1-min 35.235-secs in the one-lap Superpole event for the leading 16 riders from the previous two qualifying sessions. Australia's Troy Bayliss had been fastest after the second qualifying session on an Infostrada Ducati, but dropped to sixth position in Superpole. Italian Alessandro Antonello crashed his Virgilio Aprilia during Superpole, but was only relegated to eighth position because he had been on the provisional front-row after the second qualifying session.