Rizla Suzuki’s Tom Sykes and Atsushi Watanabe got their team’s home round off to a good start today during free practice for the second round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship at Thruxton in Hampshire, finishing in fifth and 19th places respectively. Sykes improved his lap times by 0.8secs between free practice one and two, while his team-mate Watanabe knocked an impressive 1.4secs off his time as he got to grips with the fastest track on the calendar. “We are just refining my Rizla Suzuki’s set-up now,” explained a confident Sykes. “We have a good direction to go in. However, there are two or three corners where I’m not so strong. Once we get to the bottom of that I will be able to push harder. I’m fast in the first sector so we need to concentrate on the second sector, we will find the cure and be up there for sure.” The high speed 2.4 mile track is a new challenge for two times Japanese Superbike Champion Watanabe. He said: “I am still learning; the circuit is very, very fast but the lay-out is easy. It has a different feeling to Brands Hatch and is very bumpy. My lap times improved but my result has not and I’m not so happy with this. I got my fastest lap early in the session, then I tried a new tyre and think I should go faster but I didn’t improve. It is a very wide and fast track; there are lots of lines, but I need to find Atsushi line.” Team Manager Jack Valentine was happy with how free practice went. He said: “We were working on tyre duration and we have further improvements to make so I know we can step up. I’m pleased with how Atsushi has dropped his times as he is in at the deep end again learning a new circuit. I’ve looked at our lap times we are definitely in contention with the front runners and our Rizla Suzukis are up there on top speed too. I’m looking forward to tomorrow; I just hope it stays dry for qualifying. We have had two good sessions today and I know we have a good race set-up I’m confident we will improve.” The fastest time was set by Honda’s Cal Crutchlow with a time of 1min15.071secs. Third free practice takes place tomorrow at 10.25 followed by a 50-minute qualifying session at 14.15. Practice Times: 1: Cal Crutchlow (Honda) 1:15.071 2: Leon Haslam (Honda) +0.581 3: Karl Harris (Yamaha) +0.721 4: Shane Byrne (Ducati) +0.899 5: Tom Sykes (Rizla Suzuki) +1.040 6: Michael Rutter (Ducati) +1.081 7: Stuart Easton (Kawasaki) +1.619 8: Simon Andrews (Yamaha) +1.900 9: John Laverty C (Ducati) +2.112 10: Michael Laverty (Suzuki) +2.132 19: Atsushi Watanabe (Rizla Suzuki) +3.172 More, from a press release issued by Bennetts British Superbike Championship: Crutchlow fastest ahead of team-mate Haslam Bennetts British Superbike Championship Round Two Thruxton 18/19/20 April Cal Crutchlow underlined his determination to enjoy maiden race winning glory in the Bennetts British Superbike Championship by comfortably heading the free practice leaderboard at the wind-swept Thruxton in Hampshire. The HM Plant Honda rider had been on the pace throughout, upping the tempo in the afternoon session to send a warning to his rivals ahead of what will be opening race action in the country’s premier racing series. “I’m pleased with the lap time but I have to be consistent and we are working on the machine set-up to achieve that,” said the 22 year old Coventry rider. “It is so open here, and the strong wind is difficult, but the gusts made things worse. “It meant changing my style a little, but things are good, and having had a pole start at Croft last season, I am hoping to replicate that and then have two good podium finishes in the races.” Crutchlow’s team-mate Leon Haslam could, however, upset those plans. He ran a little over half a second down, with a time of 1m 15.652secs, commenting: “I’m getting the times that I wanted to and have also done a full race distance runs, working on the tyres. I just need to find a bit more consistency.” Karl Harris, like Crutchlow a former winner of the British Supersport title, was third best aboard the Rob Mac Yamaha. He had topped the times during the morning, and then bettered that lap by half a second, illustrating his competitiveness. Former champion, and pole starter for the snow aborted Brands Hatch round, Shane Byrne, riding the Airwaves Ducati, set the fourth best time, 1m 15.970secs, running just ahead of Tom Sykes aboard the locally prepared Rizla Suzuki. “It is very abrasive so it has good grip but is hard on tyres,” said the Huddersfield rider, adding: “It is my team’s home round so I will be trying my hardest.” Michael Rutter ran him close, lapping in 1m 16.152secs aboard the NorthWest 200 Ducati with Stuart Easton (MSS Discovery Kawasaki) and Simon Edwards riding the Lloyds British Jentin Yamaha in close contention. John Laverty, riding the BuildbaseNW200 Ducati, topped the Daily Star qualifiers, recording a best lap in 1m 17.183secs, to be marginally faster than his brother Michael, riding the championship class Relentless Suzuki. Aussie Billy McConnell and Leon Camier completed the top twelve with Chris Burns riding the STP MV Agusta a further two places back, but the second of the Cup a race within a race for Independent teams and riders qualifiers. Steve Mercer, three quarters of a second down on Burns, headed the next pack of Cup qualifiers: James Buckingham, Malcolm Ashley and Michael Howarth. Bennetts British Superbike Championship, Thruxton, free practice: 1. Cal Crutchlow (HM Plant Honda) 1:15.071s 2. Leon Haslam (HM Plant Honda) +0.581s 3. Karl Harris (Rob Mac Racing Yamaha) +0.721s 4. Shane Byrne (Airwaves Ducati) +0.899s 5. Tom Sykes (Rizla Suzuki) +1.040s 6. Michael Rutter (North West 200 Ducati) +1.081s 7. Stuart Easton (MSS Discovery Kawasaki) +1.619s 8. Simon Andrews (Jentin Racing/Lloyds British) +1.900s 9. John Laverty (Buildbase NW200 Ducati) +2.112s 10. Michael Laverty (Relentless Suzuki by TAS) +2.132s
© , Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.