Honda Racing's Steve Plater and new recruit Mark Heckles suffered mixed fortunes in Sunday's two 25-lap races at Snetterton, with each having one strong ride.

Having qualified in eighth and 11th places respectively, Heckles and Plater - like the rest of the field - both encountered problems in the first race with excessive tyre wear at the extremely fast Norfolk circuit.

A promising debut outing on the Honda Racing SP-2 came to a premature end for Heckles, who was forced into retirement on lap 20 with tyre problems.

"It was frustrating having to retire towards the end of the race, but I feel really positive about the performance of the Honda Racing VTR1000 SP-2," said Heckles. "I could see Steve in front of me after I had recovered from a poor start, so I guess I could have realistically finished in the top six."

Plater's many years of riding this circuit in various British championship events showed as he initially rode conservatively to reduce tyre wear, allowing him to charge through the field in the latter stages of the race, eventually finishing in fourth position - his best result of the season so far.

"I was really pleased with my performance in the first race," said Plater. "The Honda Racing team has been focussing on race set-up throughout qualifying and we knew that tyre wear was going to be a big issue over 25 laps. I guess our strategy paid off. I played it cool in the opening laps and concentrated on conserving my tyres. I could see the race unfolding in front of me and I knew not to risk pushing it too much. It was vital for me to get some points in the bag with the championship in mind, so I've achieved my first aim for the day."

In race two, Plater and Heckles both got decent starts and were circulating in ninth and tenth places by half race distance. However, retirements by Steve Hislop and Glen Richards, and a crash by Michael Rutter in the second half of the race elevated the Honda Racing riders to seventh and eighth places respectively.

Heckles, who has experience in testing the world championship-winning Honda VTR 1000 SP-2 from last year, gave Plater a good run for his money, passing him on lap 19 and eventually finishing the race just in front of his team mate.

"That was fantastic! I really enjoyed that race," beamed Mark. "I had to work hard, but with the more miles I do on the bike, the more confidence I gain. I could see Steve ahead of me throughout the race and it was great to have a battle with him on the track in the closing stages. I'm really looking forward to my second event with Honda Racing at Thruxton next weekend, where we'll hopefully be able to pick up from where we left off here at Snetterton."

"It's been a good day overall for the Honda Racing team. I'm much happier with my personal performance than I was at Silverstone two weeks ago," added Plater. "It's really helped having a second rider in the team and we've made lots of progress in the development of the VTR1000 SP-2. My overall objective was to secure two high points-scoring rides today, so I've got to be satisfied with moving up to ninth overall in the British Superbike Championship."

 

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