Shakey sets the benchmark in Friday's free practice
A frantic final minute of the second MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship free practice session at Oulton Park saw the leading rider change three times at the top; Jake Dixon firstly looked set to hold the top spot before Leon Haslam moved ahead and then Shane 'Shakey' Byrne set the final benchmark.
It was an intense end to the session as one of the most crucial rounds of the season got underway; Byrne and Haslam already have their positions in the Showdown confirmed, but behind them there were several of the leading contenders already scrapping for the leading positions.
Honda Racing had started the session strongly; Dan Linfoot having a spell at the top as he bids to join his team-mate Jason O'Halloran in the Showdown this weekend, but the Australian leapt ahead of him to take the advantage in the final 20 minutes of the session.
Dixon was showing an impressive pace on the Briggs Equipment BMW though and as the chequered flag fell, the MCE BSB rookie hit the top of the times, however Haslam and Byrne were both on their final flying lap of the session and determined to lay their marker down ahead of tomorrow’s opening race.
Haslam hit the top by just 0.007s to steal the position from Dixon, but it wasn’t enough to keep Byrne behind him and the Be Wiser Ducati ended the opening day with a 0.168s advantage. The trio’s last lap improvements nudged O’Halloran back into fourth position just ahead of his Honda Racing team-mate Linfoot at the chequered flag.
Tommy Bridewell and the Bennetts Suzuki showed they are ready to fight for the Showdown position, the team overcoming a technical issue this morning to fire into the top six and more crucially ahead of the riders that lead them in the standings. Bridewell headed off Luke Mossey and Christian Iddon with John Hopkins proving he could be a Showdown spoiler in ninth place for ePayMe Yamaha making it all six manufacturers inside the top ten.
Richard Cooper held tenth position as he bids to close down on the top six; the Buildbase BMW rider arrives here equal on points with Mossey and the pair are just seven points adrift of James Ellison who holds sixth in the standings.
Ellison was eleventh on the second of the JG Speedfit Kawasakis whilst Michael Laverty who currently occupies fourth in the standings was 14th on the timesheets. Peter Hickman who also has a shot at the Showdown for the first time ended his afternoon with a crash at Knickerbrook although the JG Speedfit Kawasaki rider was unhurt.