Broc Parkes and his Kawasaki World Superbike team-mate Sheridan Morais set the free practice pace ahead of the weekend’s triple race eighth round of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship in association with Pirelli at Brands Hatch.
The team are making a one-off appearance into the domestic series during the long summer break in their own championship, with owner Paul Bird eager to capitalise on further development of his machines in a highly competitive racing environment.
His riders took full advantage, with Parkes overcoming the disappointment of the World series not visiting the Kent Grand Prix circuit, by setting a scorching pace in the afternoon session, with his best lap coming in 1m 26.910secs, an average speed of 95.30mph.
“I really like the circuit and enjoy racing here and the fact that we need as much time on the track as possible with the Ninja ZX-10R to test means this is good opportunity for us,” said Parkes. “This is a bonus for us and we want to get some decent results here as this is Paul’s old hunting ground.”
Morais, deputising for the injured Makoto Tamada on the team’s second bike, was equally impressive – the 24 year old South African, who has raced the circuit previously in European Superstock action, ran with a best time of 1m 27.023secs, although he is expecting the pace to intensify.
“The competition here is really high and all the boys are really competitive – to me this feels like a world championship event. Everyone will be flying and we have been working on some changes to the chassis so that we are in the best possible shape for qualifying,” said Morais.
Flying Scot Stuart Easton, who won the British Supersport title while riding for Bird’s team who were also twice British Superbike Champions, was the best of the series regulars, running with a time of 1m 27.435secs aboard his Hydrex Honda with Tommy Hill some two tenths of a second down on him.
Hill, deputising for a second round for the injured Sylvain Guintoli aboard the Worx Crescent Suzuki, goes into his ‘home’ round of the series believing that he has unfinished business after his disappointment at Mallory Park.
Chris Walker, who ran fastest in the damp of the morning session, had to settle for fifth best aboard the Motorpoint Henderson Yamaha, just ahead of Julien da Costa riding the MSS Colchester Kawasaki, with Karl Muggeridge, quickly getting to grips with the HM Plant Honda, seventh from Michael Rutter who is riding for his fourth team of the season.
Rutter answered a late call to replace the injured Simon Andrews on the second MSS Colchester bike and with a lap of 1m 28.102secs in the closing moments of the session relegated the series leading Leon Camier to ninth.
Camier, riding the Airwaves Yamaha, goes into the three races – the first of which is on Saturday afternoon – knowing that a hat-trick would see him beat the record of 13 victories in a season set by Niall Mackenzie back in 1997.
John Laverty completed the top ten aboard the Buildbase Kawasaki while Gary Mason, the leader in the Mirror.co.uk Cup title chase, ran fastest in that category, with a lap of 1m 28.651secs on his Quay Garage Honda to be two tenths up on his title rival Martin Jessopp with the Riders Racing Honda.
Top ten free practice times
1. Broc Parkes (Kawasaki World Superbike) 1:26.910s
2. Sheridan Morais (Kawasaki World Superbike) +0.113s
3. Stuart Easton (Hydrex Honda) +0.525s
4. Tommy Hill (Worx Crescent Suzuki) +0.784s
5. Chris Walker (Motorpoint/Henderson Yamaha) +0.865s
6. Julien Da Costa (MSS Colchester Kawasaki) +0.994s
7. Karl Muggeridge (HM Plant Honda) +1.027s
8. Michael Rutter (MSS Colchester Kawasaki) +1.102s
9. Leon Camier (Airwaves Yamaha) +1.111s
10. John Laverty (Buildbase Kawasaki) +1.238s