Scott Smart set the pace in free practice for the penultimate round of the THINK! British Superbike Championship at Oulton Park.

Rain, and then an oil spill from one of the support races, dashed the hopes of title chasing John Reynolds and Michael Rutter of enjoying good track time to fine tune their machines for what could be the decisive action.

The Hawk Kawasaki rider, currently third in the standings, put in the three quick laps early on in the morning session, recording a best time of 1m 40.392s around the 2.692 mile Cheshire circuit, marginally faster than Sean Emmett, aboard the MonsterMob Ducati before the rains worsened.

Reynolds, riding the Rizla Suzuki, was fifth fastest during the morning, but only putting in eight laps, though in the pouring rain of the afternoon he was the fastest, giving him a much needed confidence booster after his disappointments of the previous round at Cadwell Park.

Then, he tumbled out of the first race, and had to be content with eighth next time out, enabling Rutter, who had taken his third consecutive victory in the opener at the Lincolnshire circuit, but retirement from the second race there, left him trailing by 33 points.

The pressure is building on Rutter. He is still smarting from a tyre gamble last time out that proved disastrous, and prevented him from making deeper in-roads into the advantage held by Reynolds. He was seventh on the leaderboard, and that after an excursion into the gravel at Lodge Corner.

For Rutter, these are must win races, while Reynolds can enjoy tactical riding as he racks up the points to stay on course for a third title.

"I have a few advantages that I am now going to concentrate on to give myself the best chance of taking the title," said Reynolds. "I have a decent margin and that allows me to manage the position if need be."