Honda Racing's Steve Plater and Mark Heckles have qualified in seventh and ninth positions respectively for the 17th and 18th rounds of the British Superbike Championship at Oulton Park.

With the top seven riders all inside the existing lap record in perfect weather conditions, the anticipated close and exciting racing is expected to attract a record crowd to the Cheshire circuit tomorrow.

Plater dramatically improved his best time of the weekend on the VTR1000 SP-2 during the final Dunlop Super 12 qualifying session.

The 30-year-old Lincolnshire rider is well placed on the middle of the second row of the grid as he stakes his claim to finish in the top four in the championship points table overall by the end of the season.

"I can't believe how well I went this afternoon compared to the rest of the weekend," noted Plater. "All I did was relax and change my riding style to carry more corner speed on the VTR1000 SP-2. It has certainly paid off and now I can look forward to tomorrow with renewed confidence. I can't fault the handling of the bike at all - I was just trying too hard in the wrong places."

In contrast, his Honda Racing team-mate actually went slower than he had done earlier in the day. Heckles from Liverpool is riding on his home circuit this weekend and he will therefore be determined to put on a good show in front of his local fans.

"I'm a bit disappointed that I didn't raise my game in the Dunlop Super 12," said Heckles, "I got my timings all wrong and left it a bit late to make my bid to qualify alongside Steve on second row.

"My fastest lap was actually ruined when I hit the kerb at the Foulston's chicane towards the end of the session. I'll now have to make up for this by getting good starts in both races."



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