Shane Byrne is aiming to extend his slender three points lead in the early season title stakes this Bank Holiday weekend and he was the dominant force in free practice ahead of the fourth round of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship at Thruxton.
The HM Plant Honda rider outpaced Swan Yamaha’s Tommy Hill in both sessions, in the second putting in a later determined lap of 1m 15.248secs, an average speed of 112.761mph, to finally head off his rival’s challenge.
Byrne who has a strong pedigree of four victories at the Hampshire circuit, with three of those successes coming in his two title winning years, is keen to continue that run of form building on his victorious ride last time out at Croft.
He was able to put in a series of fast laps from the start, reflecting: “The bike has worked well straight out of the box here so I am well happy. It is agile, in places too agile, around here! I love riding this circuit so am looking for strong qualifying and then to win races.”
Hill is still suffering some discomfort from the shoulder injury he sustained in the second round but looked much stronger, putting in consistent lap times as he prepares for races in which he aims to put his title bid firmly back on course. He lapped a quarter of second down on Byrne, but believes there is more to come from his bike.
Michael Laverty is hoping for an upturn in fortune; he set the third fastest time aboard his Swan Yamaha while James Westmoreland was fourth fastest with a lap in 1m 16.039secs a tenth of a second up on Tyco Honda’s Peter Hickman.
Former MotoGP rider John Hopkins, riding the circuit for the first time having only previously experienced a couple of laps as a passenger in a car, quickly learned his way around to put the Samsung Crescent Suzuki into sixth place on the leaderboard. Hopkins who goes into these races just three points down on Byrne in the overall standings put in a best lap in 1m 16.152secs.
The American was marginally faster than the Rapid Solicitors-Bathams Ducati duo of Martin Jessopp and Michael Rutter with Jon Kirkham ninth fastest despite a tumble late on in the second session at Goodwood. Ian Lowry riding the Buildbase BMW completed the top ten ahead of Chris Walker riding the Pr1mo Kawasaki and Loris Baz aboard the second Motorpoint Yamaha.
Alex Lowes who was making his debut into the main championship as the replacement rider for the injured Stuart Easton in the MSS Colchester Kawasaki team set the 13th fastest time three places ahead of his team-mate Gary Mason. Sandwiched in between them are the reigning champion Ryuichi Kiyonari who again was having a difficult time working with his machine settings and Jentin Honda’s Steve Brogan.
Graeme Gowland who returns from injury aboard the WFR Honda was the fastest in the Mirror.co.uk BSB-EVO class by only 0.017secs from Buy-Force.com PR Kawasaki rider Simon Andrews with Scott Smart third on the Moto Rapido Ducati and Glen Richards who tumbled from his WFR Honda towards the end of the second session.
2011 Thruxton British Superbike: Free Practice One Results:
1.Shane Byrne (HM Plant Honda) 1m:16.249s
2.Tommy Hill (Swan Yamaha) +0.400s
3.John Hopkins (Samsung Crescent Racing) +0.454s
4.Peter Hickman (Tyco Honda) +0.515s
5.Ryuichi Kiyonari (HM Plant Honda) +0.596s
6.Martin Jessopp (Rapid Solicitors-Bathams Ducati) +0.724s
2011 Thurxton British Superbike Free Practice Two Results:
1.Shane Byrne (HM Plant Honda) 1m:15.248s
2.Tommy Hill (Swan Yamaha) +0.270s
3.Michael Laverty (Swan Yamaha) +0.700s
4.James Westmoreland (Motorpoint Yamaha) +0.791s
5.Peter Hickman (Tyco Honda) +0.857s
6.John Hopkins (Samsung Crescent Racing) +0.904s