Alastair Seeley enjoyed a dream debut to his MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship career by comfortably setting the pace for Relentless Suzuki by TAS in the opening free practice session for the 2010 curtain-raiser at Brands Hatch over Easter weekend – almost a second clear of his nearest challenger.
The reigning National Superstock 1000 Champion marked his full-time graduation into the top flight with a series of consistent laps around a drying Indy Circuit, the best of which averaged 84.41mph – though he blotted his copybook slightly when he slid off at Druids in the final seconds of the hour-long session, happily being able to extract his bike from the gravel trap again and return to the pit-lane.
“It is great for me to start in P1, especially as this is my first weekend on the Superbike,” enthused the Carrickfergus 'Wizard', speaking to the official BSB website. “I had that small crash at the end of the session which was a shame as I felt I was on for an even better time and I think we could have gone faster, but I just touched the white line on the inside of the corner and down I went. I won't be doing that again in a hurry! It has given the boys some extra work and scuffed my new boots, but nothing more so it is not all bad.
“It was an interesting session as the track conditions changed so much, but we worked on some changes to the traction control and new rear shock and we made some good progress. Hopefully tomorrow the conditions will remain constant, and we can make some more improvements.”
Local hero Tommy Hill made it an all-Suzuki one-two aboard his Worx Crescent machine – albeit a gaping eight tenths of a second adrift of the pace-setter – with Laverty brothers John (Buildbase Kawasaki) and Michael (Relentless Suzuki) evenly-matched and split by just a hundredth of a second in third and fourth respectively.
The emergence of the new-for-2010 'back-to-basics' Evo Class – providing a third of the 37-strong entry – was underlined by the speed of Aaron Zanotti, who powered his Red Viper Spike Suzuki into fifth place on the leaderboard, a split-second up on returning double BSB Champion Ryuichi Kiyonari, who worked hard by putting in some 27 laps during the session on the first of the two HM Plant Hondas.
Former 125cc British Champion Luke Jones was next up in seventh aboard the PR Racing Yamaha, with South African Hudson Kennaugh eighth, and second-fastest in the Evo class for MAR Kawasaki. Last year's overall runner-up James Ellison was a low-key ninth on the sole Swan Honda to take to the track, with Chris Burns rounding out the top ten as he gave Aprilia its debut outing – in Splitlath Motorsport colours – in the Evo class.
In P11, Simon Andrews for MSS Colchester Kawasaki was just ahead of Worx Crescent Suzuki's Yukio Kagayama, back in British action for the first time since the end of 2004. Evo class KTM rider James Edmeades, circuit specialist Steve Mercer on a Yamaha and Doodson Honda's Tom Tunstall completed the top 15.
To see the practice times in full, click here