Honda Racing's Steve Plater qualified on the second row of the grid for the last two rounds of the British Superbike Championship at Donington Park, setting seventh fastest time aboard his ever-improving VTR1000 SP-2.

Plater's Honda Racing teammate Mark Heckles faired less well and finished qualifying in 17th position to head up the fifth row for Sunday's two 20-lap races around the 2.5-mile Donington Grand Prix circuit.

Plater was ninth after first qualifying, but improved to seventh overall after the Dunlop Super 12 session held in overcast conditions on Saturday afternoon. The 31-year-old Lincolnshire rider also improved his time by half a second as he explored the boundaries of his VTR1000 SP-2. His fastest time of 1:33.574 was 1.470 seconds down on the newly crowned British Superbike Champion Shane Byrne, with Sean Emmett, Michael Rutter and John Reynolds completing the front row.

Both sessions witnessed record breaking times, with the late Steve Hislop's lap record of 1:32.830 - set in the corresponding event last year - looking under threat on race day.

Plater will be focussing on the battle with Michael Rutter for third place overall in the championship. The scene looks set for a spectacular day of racing at the famous British GP venue with a huge crowd expected for the last round of what has already been a memorable championship.

"I'm happy with seventh position and a second row start," said Plater. "I had three attempts at setting my fastest time during the Dunlop Super 12 and gave it 110 per cent. I'd like to thank Honda Racing for working so hard with me over the past two days to perfect my set-up on the VTR1000 SP-2. I'm confident that I can finish the year on a high and I'll hopefully be in the hunt for the podium positions."

Heckles was less happy with his final qualifying slot in what has been a largely fruitless season for the rider originally intending to go back to the World Superbike scene with the Rumi Honda team.

"I feel so frustrated after my performance today," stated the Liverpudlian. "I was trying too hard and that resulted in me making mistakes throughout the first qualifying session. You need to be so smooth around here and that basically is where I was going wrong. However, I've got to put that behind me and concentrate on getting the best possible results for Honda Racing tomorrow."



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