An incident packed opening race of round five of the British Superbike Championship held at Knockhill left fans open mouthed as Michael Rutter almost pulled off a memorable victory - against all the odds.

Having qualified on pole position, Rutter opted for full wet tyres, but after the first of two warm up laps pulled into the pit lane to swap to his second bike which had been fitted with cut slick tyres.

Series rules prevent any rider from re-joining the circuit for the second warm up lap which meant the Renegade star had to start the race from the pit lane. Hanging onto the back of the pack, Rutter had climbed to second position well before half distance, lapping over two seconds a lap faster than race leader Shane Byrne.

Having narrowed the massive initial gap to just six seconds, the cruel misfortune that has dogged the team for the season so far struck again as the heavens opened with a torrential downpour, making it impossible for Rutter to complete the second half of the race in safety. Having been given the 'in' signal by his crew on lap 22, Rutter re-entered the pit lane for wet tyres to be fitted, enabling him to claim a solitary point eventually finishing in 20th position.

"It was very nearly a marvellous decision," explained Rutter. "On the first warm up lap I looked at the track surface and decided that it was drying fast enough to risk going for cut slicks. By half distance I was flying and smiling to myself as I went past everyone. It was a sickener when the rain came. I could have accepted a few spots, but the place was drenched in a matter of seconds and I was doomed!"

Team-mate Sean Emmett achieved a respectable fifth position having qualified in 12th position on the grid, while Nick Medd also suffered tyre problems, forcing him to pull in for fresh rubber and eliminate the prospect of championship points.

However, success for the team was just around the corner as Leon Haslam produced a superb performance to claim his first podium, finishing second on his Ducati 748, much to the delight of his crew and family.

"It's a relief to finally get a result," commented the highly rated youngster. "I've been so close to the podium on a number of occasions now and I think this could be the turning point. The other good news is that we've still got plenty of things to try and improve the bike so I'm confident of maintaining this level of performance."

The second Superbike race was to yield further heartbreak for Rutter as an engine failure forced his retirement on lap 14 while challenging for the lead. Sean Emmett eventually finished eighth while Nick Medd was to score valuable championship points by finishing in 17th position.

Commenting on his team's weekend, Team Principal Mark Griffiths remains optimistic about Renegade's prospects for the season.

"Our luck has gone from bad to worse but I am convinced that this will even itself out," stated Griffiths. "I allow all riders to make their own tyre decisions and Michael's choice in the first race was very nearly a masterstroke. Nobody could have predicted rain on that scale in such a short time, but that's how it's been going for us. Anyway, it was very exciting while it lasted!"

He went on to say, "I am delighted for Leon and his family that he was able prove his ability with a superb ride. His performance was mature and balanced and will give him a significant boost in confidence I'm sure."

 

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