Shakey fastest as home hero Easton leads the closing opposition
Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne kicked off the Knockhill round of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship by lapping under the existing circuit record to hold off the challenge from his PBM Kawasaki team-mate Stuart Easton.
The two tightly-fought free practice sessions saw the top 19 riders split by 0.9 seconds on combined times ahead of Sunday’s fifth round in Scotland.
Byrne pushed to hold his position at the top in both sessions despite the threat of his team-mate Easton from nearby Hawick as the Flying Scot bids to become the first Scot since the late Steve Hislop in 2002 to win a Superbike race on home soil.
The PBM Kawasaki team-mates locked out the top two spot, but Milwaukee Yamaha’s Josh Brookes was closing in as he bids for his first victory of the season this weekend. He held the third fastest time despite a small crash in the afternoon session and admits that he has more in reserve ahead of Datatag Qualifying tomorrow.
Josh Brookes – 3rd / 0’48.508 – “My main premonition turned out to be quite correct. The bike seems to wheelie quite a lot here, which we have had at some other tracks too and it has been something we have been working on to improve. This track, because the last corner comes out of a slow corner with acceleration up the hill that makes it worse. The first session out I didn’t have good confidence and put it on the line I wanted so to finish third; I was quite surprised because I felt worse than where the lap times put me. This afternoon we made some big improvements and the bike felt much more familiar with what I was expecting it to feel like. The track needs a different balance with the suspension, but everyone else went quicker too so the amount of improvement we made was quite unseen as everyone else must have been in a similar situation. We are still third but Shakey went out on new tyres at the end and I did my best lap on say lap 15 on the tyre so I think we didn’t do our best lap time as we didn’t put in new tyres but we are working on putting a whole race package tomorrow and not just focusing on that one lap.”
Michael Laverty enjoyed some of his best form so far this season aboard the Tyco BMW and was fourth fastest, marginally ahead of the Christian Iddon on the Bennetts Suzuki who returned to the top five.
Peter Hickman was closing in on the top five too onboard the RAF Reserves BMW as MCE BSB rookie Luke Mossey remained consistently inside the top ten onboard the Quattro Plant Kawasaki in seventh position.
Three times former champion Ryuichi Kiyonari was again part of the chasing pack as he tries to close the deficit at the circuit where he claimed victory last season for Buildbase BMW, holding eighth place as Danny Buchan and James Westmoreland completed the top ten.
Title contender James Ellison endured a tough opening day as he was back on track despite breaking his rib at the previous round of Snetterton, he was 12th fastest on the second JG Speedfit Kawasaki after suffering a technical issue at the start of the second session which reduced his track time.
Stuart Easton (PBM Kawasaki) – Championship position: 4th (99 points) – “It was a good day overall for us – it’s nice to have PBM one-two overall at the end of the day too – just! I would have liked to be three tenths closer to Shakey instead of having the other guys all so close to me, but it was still a good day and he is the one we need to catch, especially here at my home round.
“This has probably been my best Friday of the year and things are looking good on the form front and I am back on track. I feel good on the bike, but not quite perfect yet. The conditions were quite hot in the afternoon, and the tyres were moving around a bit. But that was the same for everyone, and all in all it was a pretty decent day for us.”
Jason O’Halloran was 13th quickest on Friday. The O’Show broke through for a double podium result at Snetterton recently.
Countryman Josh Waters was 15th quickest on the Bennett’s Suzuki.
Broc Parkes had his first taste of the Knockhill circuit this morning and has been getting to grips with the new circuit, knowing that the smallest of margins makes a huge difference on such a small circuit as he bids to climb the order ahead of qualifying.
Broc Parkes – 24th / 0’49.472 – “Today has been a bit of an eye-opener, everyone that comes here for the first time though has the same feeling I think. To do a lap I thought would be difficult but not as tough as it was to begin with, but I am not that far away. In the second session we used one tyre for the whole session and my times are consistent, but I think to make the next step we need to make a few more tweaks and then try a new tyre to make some laps and that will make a big difference. In general I think tomorrow I am confident we can close again as every time I was on the bike I was nearly a second of a lap faster, so I need to find another half a second and then make the next step.”
Next in the field were fellow Australians Billy McConnell and Jed Metcher.
Benjmain Currie was third quickest in Superstock 600 Practice, the Victorian broke through for his first BSB win recently at Snetterton and is looking to back that up with another.
Levi Day was 12th quickest in Supersport but third quickest in his EVO specification category.