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Rain foils Sykes challenge as momentum builds

RIZLA SUZUKI'S Tom Sykes will head the second row of the grid from fifth place after his bid for pole position was foiled by heavy rain mid-way through the qualifying session for the fifth round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship at Snetterton in Norfolk.

The 23-year-old Lancashire ace had been consistently at the top of the time sheets throughout all three dry practices and was building up his pace during the 50-minute session when the rain fell and scuppered any chance of improving with 30-minutes remaining. His lap-times in the dry mark him out as a potential race winner tomorrow.

Rizla Suzuki's Atsushi Watanabe on his first visit to the 1.952-mile airfield track qualified 12th after taking more than three-seconds off his lap times from the first practice session. The reigning Japanese Superbike Champion is learning fast and was sure he could have achieved a second row start if the session had stayed dry. Ducati's Shane Byrne took pole position.

Superbike racing kicks off at 1315 on Sunday, 15th June with race two at 1630. British Eurosport will broadcast live between 1300-1400 and 1530-1745.

Tom: "It's hard not to be disappointed in fifth place after being in the top two in the previous sessions, but the truth is we are in much better shape than the qualifying result. We didn't go banzai at the start of qualifying because we wanted to put together a tyre test and that shows that I can run mid 1min 5secs laps right at the end of the race - that puts us in contention.

"My practice starts have been good and if I can replicate that tomorrow I'll be right at the sharp end from the first corner. I don't think anyone will be able to break away and I am confident for the race - my Rizla Suzuki GSX-R1000 is spot on and my team has done a fantastic job all weekend and deserve a sup of champagne."

Atsu: "We have made much progress every session and I go faster and faster. In qualifying I think top eight and second row possible and then rain falls and ruins chances. This means I must wait to tomorrow before challenging for top eight, that is all.

"Well done to my team for such good support. Snetterton is scary track to learn in just 2.5-hours with very fast speed at end of straight. To be close to top lap times is big achievement and I hope I can continue my improvement in races."

Jack Valentine, Rizla Suzuki Team Manager: "We should be higher up the grid with Tom and Atsu, I think both have more pace than their qualifying positions suggest, but when it rains mid-way through a session there's not much anyone can do about it. Tom naturally builds his speed and was on a race run when it rained, while Atsu has been improving almost every lap and the rain couldn't have come at a worse time.

"But Rizla Suzuki is very upbeat. On race rubber Tom is grease lightning quick and on the same pace as the front row, if not faster, so we expect a podium or better from him. As for Atsu, he's determined, improving and getting faster; the top 10 is his target and I think he has the bike and ability to achieve it.

"You can feel the momentum building with the team and despite a slightly disappointing qualification, there is no doubt Rizla Suzuki has the ability to challenge for wins tomorrow. We can't wait for the racing."

Qualifying Results

1: Shane Byrne (Ducati) 1:05.162
2: Cal Crutchlow (Honda) +0.099
3: Leon Camier (Ducati) +0.258
4: Leon Haslam (Honda) +0.335
5: TOM SYKES (RIZLA SUZUKI) +0.378
6: Karl Harris (Yamaha) +0.743
7: Michael Rutter (Ducati) +0.779
8: Michael Laverty (Suzuki) +0.845
9: Billy McConnell (Kawasaki) +0.920
10: James Ellison (Honda) +0.951
12: ATSUSHI WATANABE (RIZLA SUZUKI) +1.404.