Just one day after rain ended the racing action at Daytona early, Hodgson and teammate Eric Bostrom put in their qualifying runs on board their factory Ducati 999s in clear and sunny conditions. Bostrom will start the prestigious opening event of the AMA season from ninth position.
Hodgson, a former British and World Superbike Champion, impressed as he improved his lap times on the 2.95 mile (4.7 kilometer) track, home of the historic American motorcycle race. Despite relatively little track time due to the weather, Neil showed his professionalism by working up to speed quickly on the difficult banked oval. Neil said he didn't use a tow from another rider, a common tactic at the Speedway, to set his fast qualifying time of 1'39.884. "My strategy was to go as fast as I could. I didn't really want to even follow anyone. I was just trying to do my own thing," said Neil. "I was working on the settings a little bit, so I needed to just concentrate on me and my bike, and just get the feeling and understand it."
Hodgson said the intricacies of Daytona make things difficult as riders fight for victory. The 31 degree banked section of the track has walls just inches away from the racing line. "We're professional motorcycle racers, and then you come to Daytona and it's almost a different skill. It feels so alien to us," said Neil. "I don't think you get used to the feeling of it, because there's no grip on the infield, and the banking is the banking. So I'm pleased to be on the front row. Hopefully there's a little bit more to come in the front end direction, based on that session."
Neil felt he could improve his lap times even more for Saturday's 15-lap race since he found a possible solution for braking into turn one late in qualifying.
Eric Bostrom will start the race from ninth position after a 1'41.654 lap. "We didn't make as much progress as we would have liked. I felt like I was riding hard, sliding the front and sliding the rear in spots. I've been around long enough to know where the limits are and I was pretty close to them. The lap times just weren't there for us today. We'll keep our heads down and try to come up with a solution for the race on Saturday."
"We're impressed and proud of Neil for doing so well in his first AMA qualifying session against some very good competition," said Team Manager Tom Bodenbach. "We'll see how the race goes, pace-wise. We're in pretty good shape for the race. Eric has some things to sort out, but the guys are working on it. We're going to do our best to get him in position so when he gets his normal good start, he can fight for a podium."
Saturday's Superbike race will be 15 laps.
Times (36 riders in total):
1. Mat Mladin (Suzuki) 1'38.232
2. Ben Spies (Suzuki) 1'38.963
3. Neil Hodgson (Ducati 999) 1'39.884
4. Aaron Yates (Suzuki) 1'39.894
5. Geoff May (Suzuki) 1'40.608
6. Miguel DuHamel (Honda) 1'40.875
7. Jake Zemke (Honda) 1'40.891
8. Josh Hayes (Kawasaki) 1'41.429
9. Eric Bostrom (Ducati 999) 1'41.654
10. Jason Pridmore (Suzuki) 1'41.691