Australian Josh Brookes twice fought off fierce challenges from Alastair Seeley to set the pace in the opening practice sessions ahead of the triple race seventh round of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship at Snetterton.
The HM Plant Honda rider, who leads the title chase by four points, topped the leaderboard in each of the two sessions at the Norfolk circuit, but not without being closely challenged by Relentless Suzuki riding Seeley, and the two riders ended the day with only 0.120secs between them.
“This is the best practice day I have had this year and the first time I have topped two consecutive free practice sessions so I am feeling really positive now ahead of the first race,” said Brookes. “It has been a pleasant return here after the past two rounds.
“I don’t really like Mallory Park and then Knockhill was ruined due to the weather, but this track is great for Superbikes and you can really utilise the full speed on the straights here and the turns are so flowing. I am therefore enjoying it more and when you ride like that it gives you more confidence and the times just come.”
Brookes can take nothing for granted. Apart from Seeley, Michael Rutter, fresh from his Scottish victory was again running at the sharp-end of the pack on his RidersMotorcycles.com Ducati to be a split second up on Tommy Hill who is eager to regain the lead in the title standings.
Worx Crescent Suzuki rider Hill dominated the early season action, but has had two lean rounds, and while he is well placed for a challenge for the crown, he is not happy at being second best in the rankings.
“Everyone wants to see a close fight for the title and I think that is what they are going to get; this weekend is certainly going to be close,” said Hill. “I had a big lead and you can see how fast the order can change so I need to be back on the podium.”
Dan Linfoot ran fifth fastest aboard the Motorpoint Yamaha with the Laverty brothers Michael, riding Relentless Suzuki, and John, Buildbase Kawasaki, either side of Quay Garage Honda’s Tommy Bridewell with former twice World Supersport Champion Andrew Pitt ninth fastest ahead of Chris Walker, who was making his debut for the Sorrymate.com SMT Honda team.
Swan Honda’s James Ellison, running twelfth fastest, was sandwiched between the MSS Colchester Kawasaki riders Simon Andrews and Gary Mason while Ryuichi Kiyonari, twice a double race winner at this circuit in his two title winning years, struggled with the set-up of his bike to be just ahead of fifteenth fastest Stuart Easton who was experiencing grip problems.
Steve Brogan, riding the Jentin BMW, was the fastest of the Mirror.co.uk BSB-EVO class runners, only 0.004secs slower than Easton, as he put in a series of consistent laps, underlining his determination to peg back series leading Hudson Kennaugh in the title chase.
Kennaugh, who has switched from MAR Kawasaki to ride for Splitlath Aprilia at this round, was fourth fastest in class a second down on Brogan and adrift of his new Aprilia team-mate Chris Burns and Close Print Finance Honda’s Craig Fitzpatrick.
Bryan Staring was sixth fastest in the Friday qualifying session for the National Superstock Championship, the Australian Superbike Championship leader making his debut with the factory HM Plant Honda team. South Australian Glen Richards was third quickest.
In Supersport, Billy McConnell was third fastest, with Jason O’Halloran eighth quickest. Richards was 10th.