Close Print Finance BLDS Honda's Craig Fitzpatrick continued his consistent run of form as the British Superbike Evo Championship visited Knockhill in Scotland for Round 5. Fitzpatrick left Knockhill with another solid handful of championship points after claiming 8th and 7th placed finishes.
The Close Print Finance Honda squad have undergone some personnel changes since the last round, with Chief Technician Pete Clifford leaving the team.
During Friday and Saturday's free practice sessions, the Fife circuit was hit by heavy rain, making track conditions treacherous. Throughout practice, the team made continued improvements to the Honda Fireblade, enabling Fitzpatrick to improve his lap times by a second.
As qualifying got underway, the track was still wet, but the rain had stopped. Fitzpatrick used the early part of the session to try a few changes to the set-up. With a dry line gradually beginning to appear, Fitzpatrick made the switch to intermediate tyres.
Soon after making the switch however, Fitzpatrick was reminded of the dangers of the white lines. He clipped the white line at the Chicane and ran off onto the sodden grass. By the time he had managed to escape the mud, the tyres and bike were covered. It took a number of laps to get the heat back into the tyres. With only two chances to record a fast lap before the end of the session, Fitzpatrick encounter traffic on both occasions and could only manage to finish 8th fastest.
Fitzpatrick took a gamble on a set-up for the opening race, with the track the driest it had been all weekend. After losing a place at the start, Fitzpatrick was soon back up into 8th. Having chosen a soft chassis set-up, he struggled to push on any make further ground on those ahead. At the end of the thirty lap race, Fitzpatrick crossed the line in 8th.
For race two, Fitzpatrick tried a stiffer setting. In the early laps, he was able to make his way up into 5th. Unfortunately, the changes to the chassis had made the Honda less stable in the harder braking sections of the lap, into Clark's and the Hairpin. Fitzpatrick eventually took the chequered flag in 7th place.
"It's been a positive weekend for us," stated Fitzpatrick after the race. "We have scored more valuable points and we are continuing to make improvements to the Close Print Finance BLDS Honda."
"I felt stronger this weekend than I have done so far this season. I obviously could have done without running into the mud in qualifying, I just got caught out on the white lines. I thought I was never going to get out of the mud."
"We hadn't had any dry track time before the first race, so we took a bit of a gamble on a set-up. As it turned out, we were too conservative and ended up of too soft a setting. The plan was to go stiffer for race two, but we were unable to fit the front springs we wanted, and it ended up being even worse."
"I would like to thank Pete Clifford for the hard work he put in this year, but unfortunately things haven't worked out as we had both hoped and we have agreed to go our separate ways. The other boys, Johnny and Chris, have both stepped up and continue to do a fantastic job working on the bike."
"We are looking forward to the next round at the new Snetterton 300 circuit. Obviously it's a bit of an unknown, and none of us have raced there yet. It is a great track now and it looks set to provide some exciting racing."