Sykes on podium pace

IN CROFT QUALIFYING

Rizla Suzuki Tom Sykes and Atsushi Watanabe got the 10th round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship off to a steady start with Sykes claiming third place during free practice and Atsu grabbing 12th.

The Rizla Suzuki pair spent the dry morning session dialling their GSX-R1000s into the 2.125-mile North Yorkshire circuit. Sykes, who had a small off with just five minutes of the first session to run, was pleased with how things were shaping up. His Rizla Suzuki technicians were working on his gearing and improving his front end feel ahead of the second session which was red flagged when Championship leader Shane Byrne crashed. Sykes had already hit the top of the time sheets during this session and decided to sit the rest of it out as a light rain was falling and there was nothing to be gained from the mixed conditions.

Watanabe continued to learn the twisting track and as he became more familiar with the challenging venue he dropped his lap times. He is just 1.5 seconds off Byrne who set the pace, and with more to come tomorrow, he is keen to push into the top 10 during the new Formula One-style qualifying. He showed what he can achieve at Cadwell Park last time out and he wants to go one better at Croft.

Qualifying will take place on Saturday at 1425 with racing commencing on Sunday at 1315 and race two at 1535. British Eurosport will broadcast live 1230-1700.

Tom Sykes:

"Today has been a fairly steady start to the weekend; I did enough laps to get a feel for the place and to start work on dialling in my Rizla Suzuki. I had a small tip off this morning but it was nothing serious, I just tucked the front end at Tower corner. We have a good direction to go in and I know my team will give me the bike I need to do the job this weekend just as they have done before. I'm really up for it as this is my home round and I've a lot of family and friends coming along."

Atsushi Watanabe:

"I enjoy riding at Croft as it is very flat like a Japanese track. I came here a few weeks ago for a track day so I have some knowledge of the circuit. I need to get more laps under my belt as the fast section at the back is still difficult. The only difference between a Japanese track and Croft are the bumps - it is very bumpy here. I like the track and I want another top 10 for my Rizla Suzuki team."

Free practice results:

1: Shane Byrne (Ducati) 1:20.9732: Leon Haslam (Honda) 1:21.0243: Tom Sykes (Rizla Suzuki) 1:21.1054: Cal Crutchlow (Honda) 1:21.3375: Karl Harris (Yamaha) 1:21.5006: Leon Camier (Ducati) 1:21.6957: Michael Rutter (Ducati) 1:21.8598: James Ellison (Honda) 1:22.3809: Simon Andrews (Yamaha) 1:22.46910:Gary Mason (Honda) 1:22.48312: Atsushi Watanabe (Rizla Suzuki) 1:22.681