The Renegade Ducati pairing of Michael Rutter and Shane Byrne led the way as the first British Superbike group test took place to coincide with the series 2002 launch at Silverstone.

The new team, formed for the new season, gave Rutter the ideal opportunity to prove that he is more than superbike racing's regular rainmeister as he led teh field by three-tenths of a second over two 45 minute test sessions. Team-mate Byrne, graduating from the privateers' class after a dominant 2001, backed up his more experienced partner to perfection, seeing off many of the more fancied runners.

Pre-season favourite John Reynolds could only manage third fastest time on the day, underlining his claims in the racing press this week that he did not expect to be able to live with the best of the Dukes. The reigning champion lapped four-tenths off Rutter's pace, with fellow Suzuki riders John Crawford and Karl Harris not too far behind.

Crawford, running with the Crescent ETI team, clocked fourth best time to edge out Harris, Reynolds' new team-mate in the Rizla squad, by four-tenths. The top five then enjoyed a big advantage over the sixth-placed rider - Hawk Racing's Glen Richards - as cloudy skies persevered over Northamptonshire.

Supersport/Superstock graduate Richards got the better of Hawk team-mate Mark Burr to the tune of seven places and over three seconds, with Yamaha's Paul Jones his nearest challenger. Suzuki protege Nick Medd took eighth, with Ducati UK's Dean Ellison and Yamaha's Shane Norval completing the top ten.

Honda did not appear on the timesheets until twelfth spot, with privateer Lee Jackson, but neither of the Motopower runners, Matt Llewellyn or Gary Mason, managed a competitive lap.

Leading performances (21 March):

Michael Rutter Renegade Ducati 1min 23.299secsShane Byrne Renegade Ducati 1min 23.552secsJohn Reynolds Rizla Suzuki 1min 23.624secsJohn Crawford Crescent ETI Suzuki 1min 23.709secsKarl Harris Rizla Suzuki 1min 24.128secsGlen Richards Hawk Kawasaki 1min 24.809secsPaul Jones Appleyard Yamaha 1min 24.865secsNick Medd Crescent ETI Suzuki 1min 25.784secs*Dean Ellison Ducati UK 1min 26.513secsShane Norval Appleyard Yamaha 1min 27.411secsJason Davis TW2 Suzuki 1min 27.718secsLee Jackson Team Jackson Honda 1min 27.797secsMark Burr Hawk Kawasaki 1min 28.039secsGordon Blackley PR Racing Honda 1min 31.285secsNeil Faulkner Grafters Suzuki 1min 32.212secsPaul Young Grafters Suzuki 1min 44.069secs*Matt Llewellyn Motopower Honda 9mins 51.537secs*Gary Mason Motopower Honda 10mins 14.619secs*

[* denotes time set in first of two sessions; only runners with transponders listed]

 

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