Two podium finishes for Michael Rutter at Thruxton were the highlight of what was, overall, a disappointing weekend for Team Renegade Ducati at the high-speed circuit.

Rutter, whose pole position qualifying time made him the fastest man ever around the 2.356-mile Hampshire circuit, struggled with machine set-up in the opening race of the day, but fought on to claim third place behind his main championship rival, Shane Byrne, and a revitalised Steve Hislop.

"That was the hardest race of my life," said Rutter of race one. "The bike didn't want to turn into the corners and I had to muscle it about to get it to go where I wanted. I knew Hizzy was lining me up for a pass in the last couple of laps, but there was nothing I could do to stop him."

In the second outing of the day, the West Midlander looked all set to challenge Byrne for the race win, until he got involved in a battle with the Kawasaki of Glen Richards for second place; a battle that slowed both riders and allowed Byrne to extend his lead at the front of the field.

Rutter eventually got the better of Richards to claim second place, but the Renegade rider was less than happy about the fact that he now trails championship leader, Byrne, by 41 points going into the next round of the series at Oulton Park in two weeks time.

"We made some suspension changes for the second race and, although Shakey managed to get away early on, I was starting to reel him in towards the end," said the #2. "I really thought I could mug him for the win in the last couple of laps, as he started to get a bit ragged when he realised I was catching him, but then Glen started diving underneath me into the first turn on every lap, which slowed us both down and allowed Shakey to open up the gap again. At the end of the day I had two good results, but I'm still disappointed, as I was expecting a lot better after qualifying on pole yesterday."

Team-mate Sean Emmett's chances were effectively over even before the race began, when he was forced to race last year's customer spec machine after destroying his factory 998F02 in a big crash during Saturday's opening practice session.

Emmett fought his way through the field to score a sixth place finish in race one, backed up with a seventh place finish in race two.

"We'd concentrated on setting up the factory bike all weekend, so when we were forced to park it up after the crash I knew we were going to struggle with set-up on the customer spec machine," commented Emmett. "I was pretty comfortable sat behind Michael in the opening stages of race one, but then I got involved in a battle with Glen Richards and Hizzy for third which caused us all to drop back.

"I don't know what was up with the bike in race two, but it was vibrating so much my left hand went numb and I was struggling to use the thumb brake on my left handlebar. In the end I had to settle for mugging Mark Heckles for seventh place in the final chicane. Not a brilliant weekend, but at least I scored some much needed championship points," he concluded.

After being forced to retire from race one with a broken clutch, Nick Medd overcame severe handling problems on his 998RS02 to claim 18th place in the second outing of the day.

"We've had a few problems with the bike this weekend, which has reduced the amount of laps we've been able to do and severely restricted our set-up time," said Medd. "I knew we were going to have problems with the clutch in race one, as I had to use the front brake to stop the bike creeping forward on the line, but the biggest problem this weekend was that I just wasn't happy with the set-up of the bike. We're testing at Oulton with Michael and Sean this week and, hopefully, we'll find a good base set-up that I'll be able to work on for the rest of the season."

In the Supersport class, Leon Haslam's weekend ended in disappointment just two laps into Sunday's race when the 19-year-old former GP rider was forced to retire with fuelling problems on his Ducati 748.

"All things considered it's been a disappointing weekend," declared Haslam. "Problems on Friday set us back at the start of the weekend and we've been playing catch up ever since. I made up quite a few places at the start of the race and things were looking good, but then it felt like the bike was starting to run out of fuel.

"We think it may be a problem with the fuel pump, but we'll have a better idea once we've had a chance to strip it and check it out properly."

 

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