Brookes quickest as action gets underway at Brands Hatch
Josh Brookes set the pace in opening free practice for the triple race eighth round of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship at Brands Hatch but the HM Plant Honda rider was hard pressed by Tom Sykes, making a one-off return to domestic action from his World Superbike commitments.
Brookes worked hard across both sessions on the Kent Grand Prix circuit to dial in his bike for what he intends to bring him the hat-trick of victories that he came close to achieving in the previous round at Snetterton but apart from his rivals for the crown, the Aussie now knows that he faces tough challenges from Sykes riding the factory Kawasaki in the races, the first of which is on Saturday afternoon, the other two on Sunday.
There was only 0.139secs between them at the top of the leaderboard, and with both Ryuichi Kiyonari and Michael Rutter, who had run fastest in the morning session, in close contention, third and fourth fastest, the predictions are for fiercely fought races, especially as they come at a crucial time in the series in which only the top six riders, after the next round at Cadwell Park go forward into the “Showdown” for the title.
The title stakes are led at the moment by Worx Crescent Suzuki rider Tommy Hill, who had started his campaign with a victory at his local circuit back in April, but, his return did not bring him much good fortune, with both sickness and handling problems slowing him to a distant 19th on the leaderboard, and some 1.611secs down on the best lap of Brookes, set by the Honda rider in 1m 26.582secs.
Michael Laverty and his Relentless Suzuki by TAS team-mate Alastair Seeley were separated by only 0.002secs as they ran just ahead of seventh fastest James Ellison aboard the Swan Honda – the Cumbrian rider is among the dozen riders who have a mathematical chance of making the top six chopped over half a second off his times between sessions and he believes that he can considerably improve his best time of 1m 27.113secs.
Yukio Kagayama ran eighth on the second Worx Crescent Suzuki, some two tenths up on MSS Colchester Kawasaki’s Gary Mason while Ian Lowry, answering a late call to ride the second of the Kawasaki World Superbikes completed the top ten with a lap in 1m 27.672secs.
John Laverty, riding Buildbase Kawasaki, was sandwiched in between Motorpoint Yamaha riders Andrew Pitt and Dan Linfoot while Stuart Easton, aboard the second Swan Honda, was working on settings, and looking for ways to peg back the 1.262secs by which he trails Brookes, to boost his hopes of making the top six in the points standings.
Steve Brogan, riding Jentin BMW, underlined his determination to tighten his grip on the chase for the Mirror.co.uk BSB-EVO class crown by running fastest in class, some 0.739secs faster than his rival Hudson Kennaugh aboard the Splitlath Aprilia. Craig Fitzpatrick, riding the Close Print Finance Honda, ran third fastest.
1 J Brookes HM Plant Honda 1m 26.582s
2 T Sykes Kawasaki Racing Team 1m 26.721s
3 R Kiyonari HM Plant Honda 1m 26.817s
4 M Rutter RidersMotorcycles.com Ducati 1m 26.844s
5 M Laverty Relentless Suzuki 1m 27.060s
6 A Seeley Relentless Suzuki 1m 27.062s
7 J Ellison Swan Honda 1m 27.113s
8 Y Kagayama Worx Crescent Suzuki 1m 27.212s
9 G Mason MSS Colchester Kawasaki 1m 27.405s
10 I Lowry Kawasaki Racing Team 1m 27.672s