Tommy Hill worked consistently across free practice ahead of the Bank Holiday Monday second round of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship to set the pace, moving to the top of the leaderboard ahead of his Swan Yamaha team-mate Michael Laverty.
Hill, who took the early lead in the title stakes with a second place and a victory in the Brands Hatch opener was pleased with his lap time of 1m 35.682secs, which came late on in the second session at the Cheshire circuit.
“That was good for me as we used the same tyre and I guess a lot of people are looking and thinking we popped in a softer tyre to go for a time,” explained Hill. “We had been fairly consistent across both sessions and we still have a few things to work on ahead of qualifying and these races.”
Hill has no worries about returning to the circuit where last year he suffered final round heartbreak when a crash cost him the chance of taking the title. “That is behind me. You can’t be a racer and think about things like that, it would slow you down. You have to get on with the job.”
Laverty, who was 0.700secs down on Hill, believes there is much more to come. “It always takes me time to comfortable at this circuit as it is hard work to ride, but every lap was getting a bit better for me. So with the changes we can make, I am feeling good,” said Laverty.
Aussie Josh Brookes, unscathed from his heavy tumble in the opening race of the season, had set the fastest lap in the opening session and though he improved on that by almost three quarters of a second he had to be content with third for Relentless Suzuki, just 0.059secs ahead of French teenager Loris Baz on the Motorpoint Yamaha.
MSS Colchester Kawasaki duo Stuart Easton and Gary Mason packed in behind Baz with Jon Kirkham again impressing with the seventh best time, 1m 37.046 secs aboard the Samsung Crescent Suzuki to be ahead of reigning champion Ryuichi Kiyonari. The Japanese rider was a triple race winner at the circuit last October, but whose chance of improving his lap time was thwarted in the final minutes by a technical problem with his HM Plant Honda.
Shane Byrne, all but matched his team-mate Kiyonari’s time with Peter Hickman the fastest of the TYCO Honda riders as Tommy Bridewell crashed heavily, escaping injury, but badly damaging his machine.
There was little good fortune for Jenny Tinmouth on her debut into the series as the Splitlath Aprilia rider missed much of the morning session with machine problems and then crashed without injury at Lodge three laps into the second period of practice.
WFR Honda rider Alex Lowes, 15th fastest overall, was the top runner in the Mirror.co.uk BSB-EVO class, with a lap in 1m 37.646secs, to be ahead of PR Kawasaki rider Simon Andrews and Glen Richards.
Oulton Park Free Practice Results
Free practice one – top six
- Josh Brookes (Relentless Suzuki by TAS) 1m:36.844s
- Tommy Hill (Swan Yamaha) +0.143s
- Ryuichi Kiyonari (HM Plant Honda) +0.162s
- Jon Kirkham (Samsung Crescent Racing) +0.286s
- Michael Laverty (Swan Yamaha) +0.459s
- Gary Mason (MSS Colchester Kawasaki) +0.776s
Free practice two – top six
- Tommy Hill (Swan Yamaha) 1m:35.682s
- Michael Laverty (Swan Yamaha) +0.700s
- Josh Brookes (Relentless Suzuki) +0.922s
- Loris Baz (Motorpoint Yamaha) +0.981s
- Stuart Easton (MSS Colchester Kawasaki) +1.049s
- Gary Mason (MSS Colchester Kawasaki) +1.227s
[Press Release Courtesy ofwww.britishsuperbike.com]