James Ellison all but equalled the Thruxton lap record as he outpaced early season title rival Tommy Hill in Friday practice for round two of the 2010 MCE British Superbike Championship.
Riding the Swan Honda, Ellison put in scorching 113.22mph lap of the Hampshire circuit to finally head off the challenge of Hill aboard the Worx Crescent Suzuki by a little over a quarter of a second.
“That is the fastest I have ever been round here, by about a third of a second, and it was equal to the pole time of last year,” said Ellison adding: “I didn't realise the times I was putting in, and even with back-markers and the crosswinds I felt fairly consistent throughout the sessions.”
Ellison is keen to maintain the pedigree after winning last time out at Brands Hatch: “I'm feeling good already, though nothing will be easy,” he said after closing within a whisker of the four year old lap record set by former champion Gregorio Lavilla.
Last year, Ellison had to settle for second best in each of the races to his then team-mate, title winning Leon Camier, and this time around he is intent on better things, but Hill will make him fight all of the way.
The Suzuki rider had set the pace in the morning session, and then put in a late charge in a vain attempt to head off Ellison next time out, though he was not too concerned. Hill had worked methodically preparing himself and his bike for the races.
“The main thing has been adjusting to the bike around here,” explained Hill. “You have to try to be consistent, not wanting to change too much with the bike as the circuit is bumpy and you struggle to find the perfect set-up.
“That means some compromise, and some aggression. I am confident going into these races, and am looking for a big points haul to stay ahead in the title chase,” he added.
Michael Laverty, riding the Relentless Suzuki by TAS, briefly held top place on the leaderboard, but had to settle for third overall, just ahead of HM Plant Honda's Aussie Josh Brookes who is eager to put his title challenge on track with a repeat of his first BSB podium scored in the corresponding round of last season.
The top four ran within 0.729secs, with Flying Scot Stuart Easton, still experiencing some discomfort from the badly gashed leg sustained in pre-season testing, closing in on them, and running marginally faster than Alastair Seeley and Yukio Kagayama.
Gary Johnson, riding the AIM Suzuki, was the fastest of the Mirror.co.uk BSB-EVO riders, putting in a 109.41mph lap to be just 0.005secs faster than David Anthony riding the MIST Suzuki, with Craig Fitzpatrick aboard the Close Print Finance and Splitlath Aprilia's Chris Burns in close contention.