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Sykes shows strong race pace

RIZLA SUZUKI ace Tom Sykes will head the second row in fifth place for tomorrow's double-header 11th round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship at Silverstone in Northamptonshire - and he has displayed blistering pace on race tyres that mark him out as a contender for top honours.

Sykes led the first tier of qualifying and followed it up with third in the second session. Going into the crucial final qualifying to determine the top 10 he improved his lap time at the 2.213-mile twisty and demanding track. Lapping consistently and impressively in the low 1m 26s bracket he finished fifth but if he can maintain that pace for the races he will be right at the sharp end at the chequered flag.

In glorious sunshine, Rizla Suzuki's Atsushi Watanabe was 10th in the first qualifying but could not match his lap times in the second session, finishing 17th and eliminated from the exclusive top 10 shoot-out. Honda's Cal Crutchlow took pole position.

Superbike racing starts at 1315 at Silverstone on Sunday, September 28th, with the second race commencing at 1625. A bumper crowd is expected at the track and the racing will be shown live on Eurosport.

Tom: "I am trying hard and pushing as fast as I am comfortable. I can run my lap times consistently and come tomorrow that should put us in contention for the podium over race distance.

"There are a few changes we can make to my Rizla Suzuki that we can test in morning warm-up. I'd like my gear change lever moved slightly to help with selection and there are a couple of ideas we have to give me a bit more confidence through Priory where I feel there is time to be gained."

Atsu: "I quite like Silverstone and think the circuit is very high level. I also like the weather this weekend, it is not usual for British Superbikes, there is sunshine - I hope it stays for the races.

"I am little disappointed in final qualifying as I think I could have been higher and competing in top 10. In the second qualifying session an issue with my number one bike meant I rode my second GSX-R1000 but I was not as comfortable and I end up 17th. We will go back to my other bike and tomorrow I think I can still compete for top 10 OK."

Jack Valentine, Rizla Suzuki Team Manager: "It's the penultimate round of the Championship and the competition is really hotting up - a bit like the weather really. Tom put in a good performance and can run his lap times for a full race distance - that should let him fight for the podium. We'll try a few changes in the morning to improve his pace further and starting from fifth on the grid is the right side of the track for entering turn one. He's in good shape.

"Atsu started well in qualifying but a machine switch for the second qualifying did not work to his advantage and he ended up further down the field than we expected. He has top 10 speed and I fully expect him to get up there in the races."

Qualifying results:

1: Cal Crutchlow (Honda) 1:25.489
2: Leon Haslam (Honda) 1:25.790
3: Michael Rutter (Ducati) 1:25.952
4: Karl Harris (Yamaha) 1:25.976
5: TOM SYKES (RIZLA SUZUKI) 1:26.012
6: Shane Byrne (Ducati) 1:26.136
7: Leon Camier (Ducati) 1:26.175
8: James Ellison (Honda) 1:26.555
9: Michael Laverty (Suzuki) 1:26.912
10: Gary Mason (Honda) 1:27.011
17: ATSUSHI WATANABE (RIZLA SUZUKI) 1:28.151.