SATURDAY, APRIL 28: Australian motorcycle racer Peter Goddard has joined Italian manufacturer Benelli for its debut in the World Superbike Championship, scheduled for June.

Goddard is undertaking an intensive testing program on the 900cc Benelli Tornado and more development is planned before the three-cylinder machine is scheduled to race in the championship for the first time in round eight of the 2001 series at Misano in Italy on June 24.

"We are hoping to enter the championship at Misano, and the team and engineers are doing all that is possible to achieve this," said Goddard. "However, there is still a lot of work to do and neither Benelli or I plan to participate in racing until the bike is competitive."

Goddard has a wealth of experience in the World Superbike Championship, winning races on Yamahas in 1989 and again the following year. He was a works rider in the championship in 1998 with Suzuki, and the following year with Aprilia, and raced in selected rounds of the 2000 championship for Kawasaki.

The 36-year-old from Wollongong is now based in Europe and has tested the Benelli for eight days at the Misano and Mugellon circuits in Italy. He said further tests were planned in Italy and at the Valencia track in Spain in the coming two months.

"We are heading into a series of tests in to further evaluate modifications and to determine the Tornado's strengths and weaknesses," said Goddard.

"I've done several tests to date, which has given a direction for general and necessary improvements to concentrate on. This is a production-racing bike that is being transformed into a World Superbike contender."

"From these tests I can say the Tornado 900cc triple is currently at an equal level to a high-performance street bike, with a fully adjustable chassis that is already giving a good feeling on the track."

"It has a unique character with a 'Big Bang' firing order and a fascinating sound you will not miss this bike on the road or track. We have an enthusiastic and passionate team committed to getting on the race-track as soon as possible."

"The Benelli Sport infrastructures and facilities are being constantly expanded and improved all the time. This is a huge undertaking for Benelli. Andrea Merloni (owner and Managing Director of Benelli) is determined to succeed with this project and Benelli's racing aspirations, and I am proud to be part of the package."

The Benelli factory is at Pesaro on the Adriatic Coast, and the race team is based at Serravalle in San Marino. Benelli's racing department comprises almost 30 personnel, and there are 12 in the team working on the superbike project.

Goddard said previous testing of the Benelli had been done on Michelin tyres, but Dunlops would be evaluated in the future development program.

Benelli's past racing achievements include winning the 250cc grand prix world championship twice, with Italian Dario Ambrosini in 1950, and Australia's Kel Carruthers in 1969.

The first Benelli motorcycle was created in 1921, and the brand was relaunched on January 31, 1997. The Tornado was launched in 1999.

Goddard's past record, in addition to his World Superbike Championship performances, includes riding in 17 500cc grand prix races between 1990-97, and winning the World Endurance Championship in 1997. He also won the All-Japan 500cc Championship in 1992 and the Australian Superbike Championship in 1996, and finished on the podium in the Suzuka Eight-Hour endurance race in 1989 and 2000.

MEDIA ENQUIRIES: Mike Porter Tel: 61 7 5591 1773, 0417 311 997. Fax: 61 7 5591 4955. E-Mail: mikep@qldnet.com.au

home | results | statistics | about | photos | bike specs | news | media | stuff | contact | links