Michael Laverty is ready to take the fight for the MCE Insurance British Superbike crown to the title chasing duo of Tommy Hill and Josh Brookes in the sixth round of the championship at Knockhill.
The Relentless Suzuki rider, who scored his first ever BSB podium finish at the Fife circuit five years ago, topped the free practice leaderboard with a lap of 48.873, an average speed of 93.64mph. Laverty needs an action replay of that, and more, to keep the pressure on Brookes whom he trails by 17 points in the standings.
Brookes, riding HM Plant Honda, goes into these races sensing that he can take the lead in the title chase for the first time, having closed within four points of Hill who has had a problematic last two rounds.
Having had to settle for second best to his team-mate Ryuichi Kiyonari last time out at Mallory Park, Brookes starts these races just four points down on Hill and is determined to taste the winner’s champagne.
“Second is not where I want to be, I obviously want to be fastest, but we know now that having done the work in these opening sessions we can refine the bike with what we have learnt and then be in a strong position for qualifying,” explained Brookes.
“At the last round at Mallory Park we didn’t try enough changes on the practice day so we ended up being on the back foot a bit and having to change settings right up until the race. Here we have worked through as many different changes and combinations as possible. We have tried four different sets of shocks, two different sets of forks and have just played with what works best together.”
Those efforts closed him within 0.332secs of Laverty and kept him just ahead of the Flying Scot Stuart Easton who, riding Swan Honda, is determined to go one better than his second place of the corresponding round of last year by taking a first ever Superbike victory on home soil.
Kiyonari, who moved into fourth place in the standings on the strength of his double win last time out ran fourth fastest, only a split second down, while Michael Rutter aboard the RidersMotorcycles.com Ducati held onto fifth, just from Hill.
Riding the Worx Crescent Suzuki, Hill put in a best lap of 49.370secs, barely half a second down on Laverty as they prepared for a pair of 30 lap races which by the nature of the circuit look set to be closely fought affairs.
That could see Tommy Bridewell aboard the Quay Garage Honda posing questions of the title chasing pack as he ran only marginally down in seventh place ahead of Alastair Seeley on the second Relentless Suzuki and Chris Walker riding his privately entered Suzuki
John Laverty rounded off the top ten on his Buildbase Kawasaki putting in a best lap of 49.762secs to be ahead of MSS Colchester Kawasaki rider Simon Andrews; James Ellison continuing his comeback from injury of the Swan Honda and the Motorpoint Yamaha duo of Dan Linfoot and Andrew Pitt.
David Johnson, riding the Two Brothers Kawasaki, set the pace in the Mirror.co.uk BSB-EVO class with a lap in 50.044secs, to be two tenths up on title chasing Steve Brogan aboard the Jentin BMW with series leader Hudson Kennaugh on the MAR Kawasaki fourth fastest, adrift of Red Viper Suzuki’s Aaron Zanotti.