Rizla Suzuki's Tom Sykes took a solid fifth place during a dry qualifying session at Croft yesterday for round 10 of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship, with his team-mate Atsushi Watanabe coming home in 11th.
The 2.125-mile North Yorkshire circuit is Sykes's home track and he is determined to shine in front of his home crowd. He worked hard during the new Formula One style qualifying session to ensure he made it through to the final top 10 shoot-out. His team fine tuned his Rizla Suzuki as the frantic session continued and Sykes continued to improve finishing in a healthy fifth place, less than half second off pole which was claimed by Honda's Cal Crutchlow.
Watanabe also made progress as he got to grips with the twisting circuit taking his lap times down to 1:21.853secs just one second off pole position. He competed in the first two qualifying sessions but was just outside the top 10 and therefore unable to go through to the final session. His pace has increased over the weekend and there is more to come from the double Japanese Superbike Champion.
Superbike racing commences on Sunday at 1315 and race two at 1535.
"I was working on finalising the front end set-up of my Rizla Suzuki through the fast section. I'm not overly concerned as I'm confident in my team and we have a plan of action for tomorrow. I'd have liked to be front row but I know can still do it from the second row of the grid. I'm really looking forward to racing in front of my home crowd."
"I am quite happy today. I have been faster and faster which is good. I am a little disappointed not to make it into the final qualifying session as I was very close to it just 0.11 seconds off. I am on row three of the grid which is not so bad as I can get a result from there. After Cadwell Park, Croft is easy circuit."
Jack Valentine - Team Manager Rizla Suzuki:
"It's been an interesting weekend so far with very little dry track time. Free practice this morning was delayed due to an oil slick on track and a smattering of rain made the conditions treacherous. Tom sat the bulk of the session out while Atsu put in a few laps but admitted it was difficult out there.
"Tom's fifth place isn't a problem as we know he is good off the line and we have a direction to go in for tomorrow. He picked up his first podium finish in Superbikes here last year so he is going all out for an even better result this time. He is very much on a confidence high at the moment and I feel we are on for a good result.
"Atsu has worked very hard with his Rizla Suzuki team and he has steadily improved. He is starting to get to grips with the UK venues and the weather. I think he will grab the top 10 finish that he wants tomorrow. I feel we are in for some close exciting racing and Rizla Suzuki will be in the middle of it."
1: Cal Crutchlow (Honda) 1:20.3862: Michael Rutter (Ducati) 1:20.5973: Shane Byrne (Ducati) 1:20.6634: Leon Haslam (Honda) 1:20.7065: Tom Sykes (Rizla Suzuki) 1:20.7876: Leon Camier (Ducati) 1:20.8027: Karl Harris (Yamaha) 1:20.9508: Michael Laverty (Ducati) 1:21.0299: Gary Mason (Honda) 1:21.37910: James Ellison (Honda) 1:21.44711: Atsushi Watanabe (Rizla Suzuki) 1:21.853