Home hero Shane “Shakey” Byrne set the pace in the opening MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship free practice sessions at Snetterton, leading his international rivals Julien Da Costa, Jakub Smrz and Josh Brookes in a top six that featured five different manufacturers.
Byrne has won three of the four races so far as he bids to claim the title for a record fourth time and he was quickly down to business, powering in consistently strong laps at the Norfolk circuit to edge out his closest rival by 0.128s.
Byrne said: “In the morning we were able to open a gap over the rest, using only one set of tyres, and we were happy with the work we had done. In the afternoon, we went quicker, and a couple of others went faster too, but towards the end of the session we found a big improvement. My rhythm was much better and we got faster and I really loved riding even more than usual for those four or five laps. Hopefully now we can continue in that direction and perfect the bike tomorrow for qualifying.”
World Endurance Champion Julien da Costa marked Honda Racing’s return to the Championship in fine style as he closed to within 0.128s of Byrne in the final stages of the session. The Frenchman is making the first of four scheduled ‘wild-card’ appearances for Honda as they continue to develop their bike for a planned return to the series next year.
Millsport Ducati’s Jakub Smrz continued to show his pace at the Norfolk circuit, setting the third fastest time ahead of Josh Brookes, the only rider so far this season to beat Byrne. The Australian riding the Milwaukee Yamaha, ran just 0.749s down on his title rival and just ahead of Chris Walker aboard the Lloyds British GBmoto Kawasaki.
James Westmoreland ran sixth fastest for Buildbase BMW ahead of James Ellison who will be looking to continue his consistent podium finishing record for the Lloyds British GBmoto Kawasaki team. Tommy Bridewell, Swiss rider Patrick Muff on the Bathams BMW and three times title winner Ryuichi Kiyonari riding the Buildbase BMW completed the top ten that represented six different nationalities.
Motorpoint British Supersport Championship leader Billy McConnell has begun his duel with title rival Alastair Seeley on the opening day of free practice at Snetterton with the pair each topping a session before the Australian held the advantage.
Mar-Train Yamaha’s Seeley held the top position in the morning session but his Aussie rival turned the tables saving the best for the last of his flying laps aboard the Smiths Triumph to go top of the practice times by a little over a third of a second.
Graeme Gowland, riding the second Smiths Triumph, was also consistent across both sessions setting the third best time. Local contender Luke Mossey had to settle for fifth fastest on his Techcare Profile Triumph, beaten late on in the afternoon, by two tenths of a second by Luke Jones on the Acumen Industrial Services Triumph.
Glenn Irwin, who rides with an ankle injury this weekend ended the day eighth fastest on his Gearlink Kawasaki, a couple of places up on Taylor Mackenzie who had been running fourth fastest prior to a crash at Riches.
In the Evo class Ben Field was the fastest of the title contenders ahead of Alex Olsen and David Allingham, whilst Tim Hastings, Sam Coventry and Dan Helyer were pushing to close the gap.
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Milwaukee Yamaha Report
The Milwaukee Yamaha team returned to action at Snetterton today for the third round of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship with Josh Brookes and Tommy Bridewell ending the opening day in fourth and eighth respectively.
Brookes made his return to the track and was quickly on the pace, setting the second fastest time in the morning session before rounding out the afternoon in fourth after making further changes to the setting ahead of qualifying tomorrow. Bridewell made positive steps forward throughout the day, moving from tenth up to eighth in the afternoon and feeling stronger for tomorrow’s sessions.
Brookes said: “I am really happy with the transition back to the track as in the first session we were second and so that was fine to start with and then we cracked on making changes. We had a problem with the front tyre we were working on so we made some changes for the second run to relieve the pressure on the front tyre and that seemed to work really well, but then we had a few concerns about the back end of the bike is working. We now just need to piece it together as we have improved the lap time it’s just we are in the middle period where we need to get the front feeling and then get the rear to work as it did before, then we will be further up the order again. I am not concerned though, it is just part of racing and we will be ready tomorrow.”
Bridewell said: “It’s been a very productive day and a strong Friday. I’m not a Friday person usually but I felt really comfortable on the bike like I did in Spain. In the five and a half weeks since the previous round I have re-focussed, re-trained and am refreshed coming back stronger. I feel really happy on the bike doing the times within my comfort zone. Now I am looking to push on in qualifying, we have some improvements to make but after so long off the bike, it is nice to be back.”