Bikes: Watanabe impresses...


Rizla Suzuki's Atsushi Watanabe slashed 3.3 seconds off his lap time during yesterday's practice sessions for the seventh round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship at Oulton Park in Cheshire, finishing ninth, as team mate Tom Sykes was a comfortable sixth.

A dry morning session was followed by a damp start to the afternoon practice with the riders waiting in the garage for the picturesque 2.69-mile track to fully dry out. Double Japanese Superbike Champion Watanabe was fast and precise in the tricky conditions while Yorkshire ace Sykes saved his best to last as he worked through developments to his GSX-R1000.

The single 50-minute qualifying session is at 1400-1450 on Saturday with race one at 1315 on Sunday and race two at 1630.

Atsushi Watanabe:

"I flew back from Japan on Wednesday and drove straight to Oulton Park. In the morning the track was a little damp and then dry and I remember how exciting a circuit this is. Apart from maybe needing a little more sleep I feel OK and in the afternoon, after speaking with Team Manager Jack-san, I pulled the pin off the grenade and went much faster… and this is good.

"My Rizla Suzuki is feeling better. In the morning my rear is a problem but good technicians fixed and it was much stiffer and better in the afternoon. I try both my bikes and we improve handling and agility through the day. I ask for better brake stability feeling into some corners and know the team will provide me the answer. I am happy to be ninth and will be happier when I'm even higher up."

Tom Sykes:

"It is the first day of practice so we worked our way up to speed. I tried a few tyres and we have a good option that I posted my fastest lap on right at the end after it had completed a full race distance - and while being held up by a slower rider. It was a little frustrating as I could have been a fair bit faster."

Practice Times:

1: Karl Harris (Yamaha) 1:36.7162: Cal Crutchlow (Honda) +0.1743: Shane Byrne (Ducati) +0.4264: Leon Haslam (Honda) +0.5165: Leon Camier (Ducati) +0.5526: Tom Sykes (Rizla Suzuki) +0.5987: James Ellison (Honda) +1.2148: Michael Rutter (Ducati) _+1.6249: Atsushi Watanabe (Rizla Suzuki) +1.73610: Simon Andrews (Yamaha) +1.748.