Honda Racing's Mark Heckles proved that he is on his way back to full fitness by qualifying ahead of his team-mate Steve Plater at Mondello Park.

With championship leader Shane Byrne snatching pole position from surprise package Scott Smart in the dying seconds of the Dunlop Super 12 qualifying session, the Honda Racing duo will line up on the third row of the grid in tomorrow's two British Superbike Championship races.

Heckles recorded the tenth fastest time in the final session - over 0.5 seconds ahead of Plater. However, the 27-year-old Liverpool rider was disappointed not to be higher up the grid.

"It's frustrating because I really don't think that my qualifying position is representative of just how strong the Honda Racing VTR1000 SP-2 is and how positive I feel at the moment," noted Heckles.

"I can't believe how quickly I've recovered from my crash at Brands Hatch last month. It's a good job because I've got a lot of work left to do in the race. I need a good start and then we'll see what happens when I settle down into the races. I'm looking forward to the challenge, but have to admit that I'd prefer it to be wet."

Plater is currently fifth in the series after a string of mid-season podium results. The 30-year-old Lincolnshire rider is still in with a realistic chance of finishing in the top three in the championship, but he had hoped for a higher qualifying position at Mondello Park.

"I can honestly say that I have never worked so hard to be so far down the grid," said Plater, "In fact, I think I was probably trying just a little bit too hard.

"The entire Honda Racing team has been flat-out over the last two days helping me adapt the VTR1000 SP-2 to the circuit. However, it seems that my reputation for qualifying badly has followed me to Ireland. The only thing I can do now is to concentrate on both races, but I'm scratching my head as to how I'm going to make up enough ground to get back on the podium."



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