Team Renegade Ducati continued its impressive start to the 2002 British Superbike season at Brands Hatch, with team riders Michael Rutter and Shane Byrne narrowly missing out on a podium finish in both 30-lap Superbike races.

All eyes were on Byrne for the first half of race one, as he defied the odds by powering his way from the back of row two to fourth spot within the opening couple of laps.

One by one, he made his way past some of the more established names in British Superbikes until, by lap six, he was lying in third place, and gaining on the front two men. However, luck wasn't on his side and, as his rear tyre started to lose grip, he sensibly decided not to take any risks, eventually settling for fifth - still an outstanding result considering his starting position.

"I had the front two men in my sights in race one," Byrne said, "and I was reeling them in when I felt the tyre starting to lose grip. It was so frustrating because everything else was working perfectly. Despite starting on the second row, the Ducati was just awesome off the line - there's so much power there. It's early days though, we are improving and getting quicker all the time but I'm just impatient. I want to win now. I can tell you though it's not far off!"

After launching his Team Renegade Ducati off the line in race one to lead into Paddock Hill, Rutter was cruelly baulked by another rider at Graham Hill Bend and subsequently lost three places.

His chances of a podium finish were further damaged when, with five circuits completed; he was forced wide on the approach to Druids and dropped back to sixth. Despite his best efforts to regain the places he'd lost, the Brands Indy circuit and a rash of backmarkers conspired to stop Rutter working his way back through the field, and forced him to settle for seventh place at the line.

"I struggled for grip big time," Rutter declared, "The bike wanted to go quicker, but the rubber wouldn't allow it.

"I had a dream start - the Team Renegade Ducati was superb. However, I was involved in a couple of incidents, which could have gone either way, but unfortunately didn't go in my favour. I don't want to keep harping on about it but, potential-wise, there's still a lot more to come from both myself and the team, and I'm happier than I have been for many years."

If race one was all about 'Shakey' then, for the first half of race two, it was Rutter who gave his fellow competitors food for thought.

The 28-year-old former GP rider stormed away from the line to lead into the first turn, a position he held for the first third of the race. Demoted back to second on lap eleven, Rutter immediately hit back, but was forced wide at Druids hairpin, losing another two places in the process.

After recovering his composure, the West Midlander tried everything he could to latch onto the back of the leading trio, but to no avail. Rutter eventually took the chequered flag in fourth place, with team-mate Byrne three places further back in seventh.

"Everything was looking good in race two," Rutter said, "But the tyre started to go off around the midway point of the race. The suspension wasn't set-up to cope with those conditions, but hindsight is a wondrous thing!

"We're still learning our way around the bike and as we keep saying, there is definitely a lot more to come. However, I think we've made quite a few people sit up and take notice this weekend, and maybe proved that the championship isn't the foregone conclusion that some people seem to think it is."

Series leader Steve Hislop took victory in both races.



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