Byrne quickest ahead of Hopkins, Hill & Brookes as BSB gets underway

Final test, Friday 22 April:
1: Shane Byrne (HM Plant Honda) 45.777s
2: John Hopkins (Samsung Crescent Racing) +0.170s
3: Tommy Hill (Swan Yamaha) +0.276s
4: Josh Brookes (Relentless Suzuki by TAS) +0.297s
5: Michael Laverty (Swan Yamaha) +0.355s
6: Stuart Easton (MSS Colchester Kawasaki) +0.355s

Report

Local favourite Shane “Shakey” Byrne made an impressive return to the Brands Hatch Indy circuit as he topped the final testing leaderboard ahead of the Easter Monday opening round of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship.

HM Plant Honda’s Byrne is back in BSB after two years riding in World action and headed off a fierce challenge from series debut making American John Hopkins, aboard the Samsung Crescent Suzuki, though both riders are expecting the pace to quicken across practice and qualifying.

Byrne set a best lap of 45.777secs, an average speed of 94.99mph, and returned to his pit crew telling them “We’ve got work to do. There are a few things to try to get me running into the corners a bit faster, then we will away with it.”

Hopkins closed within 0.170secs of former two times British champion Byrne and was happy with the progress he was making, building on the test of the previous week. “We confirmed that good settings that we made then and used this as a good shakedown so I am well pleased with the time even though we did a lot less laps than the others.

“This is no indication really of what is to come. We have two more days of riding before the races so there is still a long way to go and everyone will improve their lap times, but I believe that we have the capability to do that too,” added Hopkins.

Pushing them hard was Lingfield’s Tommy Hill, putting in a best lap of 46.053secs to take his Swan Yamaha third fastest, a split second up on Aussie Josh Brookes whose hopes of improving his fourth place on the time sheets ended in the final minute as he tipped off his Relentless Suzuki, without injury at Druids.

Swan Yamaha’s Michael Laverty and Flying Scot Stuart Easton, riding MSS Colchester Kawasaki, both posted the same time, 46.132secs, just ahead of Jon Kirkham, riding smoothly on his debut with the Samsung Crescent Suzuki team.

That left reigning champion Ryuichi Kiyonari back in eighth place, though the Japanese rider, who is bidding for a record fourth British title, was not too concerned. “I am still not fast enough, but I know why,” said Kiyonari with a smile. “We can make changes but it is not so bad as everyone is so close,” he added, having run barely half a second down on his team-mate Byrne.

Gary Mason on the MSS Colchester Kawasaki and Dan Linfoot on the Team Sorrymate.com Honda completed the top ten ahead of Chris Walker on the Pr1mo Kawasaki and the Rapid Solicitors-Bathams Ducati duo of Michael Rutter and Martin Jessopp.

Graeme Gowland was just 0.026secs adrift of Jessopp to be the fastest of the Mirror.co.uk BSB-EVO class riders aboard his Team WFR Honda. He was marginally faster than his team-mate former Supersport and Superstock champion, Glen Richards who escaped injury as he slid off at Druids. Simon Andrews making his debut with the PR Kawasaki team was third fastest in class, just ahead of Alex Lowes on the third of the WFR bikes.