As the Bennetts British Superbike Championship title chase reaches the midway point at Knockhill this weekend, the already tough competition is certain to become even stronger. Scottish fans are promised some of the closest racing yet this year in the ultra-competitive series.
However, the infamous Knockhill rain could well put a dampener on many riders' hopes. HM Plant Honda Racing's Michael Rutter and Ryucihi Kiyonari are aware that they must be as well prepared for the wet as the dry. Both riders have worked with Michelin and the team's mechanics on perfecting the set-up of the factory-backed CBR1000RR Fireblades for wet conditions during pre-season testing.
Midlander Rutter is determined to keep a firm grasp on his championship advantage this weekend. The 31-year-old is currently 45 points clear of his nearest rival at the top of the standings, but he knows that he must continue to display the strong form that he has already shown throughout the rest of the season because consistency is the key to overall victory.
Team-mate Kiyonari is also eager for a good result so that he can move closer to the leading position. The Japanese rider continued to stamp his authority on the series at round six at Croft by scoring the team's ninth race win from 12 starts. It was the sixth victory of this season for the 22-year-old.
Michael Rutter: "Knockhill was not a particularly good event for me last year, but we have done a lot more development work since then and I'm happy with the way that the Michelin tyres are working with the HM Plant Honda Racing CBR1000RR Fireblade.
"I am traditionally a strong rider in the wet, but have also performed well in the dry recently so we will just have to wait and see what weather we're dealt. Either way, I know that I must be in the top three of both races to keep my hopes of winning the championship alive."
Ryuichi Kiyonari: "I did not ride very well at Knockhill last year - the weather was bad and I found the circuit difficult to learn. I am hoping to go better there this year now that I have a bit more experience of the circuit. It's important for me to try to finish every race for the rest of the season if I'm going to improve on third position overall."
Knockhill - vital statistics;
- Circuit length: 1.2986 miles
- Superbike lap record: 50.053 (Steve Hislop)
- 2004 BSB race one result: 1. Scott Smart; 2. James Haydon; 3. Yukio Kagayama; 9. Michael Rutter; 10. Ryuichi Kiyonari
- 2004 BSB race two result: 1. James Haydon; 2. Sean Emmett; 3. John Reynolds; 4. Michael Rutter; 14. Ryuichi Kiyonari