Rizla Suzuki's Tom Sykes finished free practice in a solid fifth place at Silverstone in Northamptonshire ahead of the 11th round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship as team-mate Atsushi Watanabe claimed 11th place.
Sykes spent his two 50-minute free practice sessions dialling his Rizla Suzuki into the fast 2.212-mile circuit. Dry weather meant he was able to fully utilise the sessions working on front end feel and chassis set-up to give him maximum confidence through the high speed turns as well as the tight slow corners. His Rizla Suzuki technicians used the set-up from Croft as a base to work from and improved gradually over the duration of the sessions allowing his lap times to drop.
Double Japanese Superbike Champion Watanabe grabbed an improving 11th place as he learned his way round the challenging track. Like Sykes, he worked through various settings and posted his fastest time just as the second session of the day was red-flagged due to fluid on track. He looked set to break into the top 10 as his first sector had improved but the session was cut short and he was denied the chance to improve further.
Qualifying takes place tomorrow at 1400 - 1500. Race one takes to the track at 1315 with race two at 1625 on Sunday.
Jack Valentine - Team Rizla Suzuki Manager:
"I think the term for today is 'steady away' as both riders worked hard on set-up and maximised on the dry track time which we have had so little of this year. Tom hasn't been pushing it today and he is only 0.294secs off Haslam who was fastest. Getting his Rizla Suzuki set-up is the key and once he gets it where he wants it I know he will be right at the sharp end.
"Atsu is making a good improvement and the lap he put in at the end was exactly what I wanted to see. It is a shame the session ended prematurely as he was on a hot lap. He is still learning the track and will be putting in plenty more laps in free practice tomorrow ahead of qualifying. I think this circuit will suit him and he will do a good job."
Free practice results:
1: Leon Haslam (Honda) 1:26.7152: Cal Crutchlow (Honda) +0.0233: Shane Byrne (Ducati) +0.2124: Karl Harris (Yamaha) +0.2735: Tom Sykes (Rizla Suzuki) +0.2946: Leon Camier (Ducati) +0.4247: Michael Laverty (Suzuki) +0.9108: Gary Mason (Honda) +1.2079: Simon Andrews (Yamaha) +1.49910: Jason O'Halloran (Honda) +1.56011: Atsushi Watanabe (Rizla Suzuki) +1.785