Stuart Easton set the pace in free practice ahead of the Holiday Monday third round of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship at Oulton Park, as he worked extensively on the development of his Swan Honda bike.
The Flying Scot was on the pace throughout, putting in a best lap of the Cheshire circuit in 1m 36.696secs, an average speed of 100.22mph, as he prepared for races in which he hopes to at least match his victory and second place scored there in the last round of last season.
Easton, who is currently third in the title stakes was naturally pleased with his performance: “We concentrated on our race set-up, making some big changes to the bike, We experimented with the balance and are well pleased with the pace, and I think there is better to come.”
Michael Rutter, maintaining his Thruxton form, ran Easton close at the top of the leaderboard, running his RidersMotorcycles.com Ducati just 0.015secs down to be ahead of series leader Tommy Hill who escaped unscathed after a spectacular crash in the final minutes of the afternoon session.
Hill high-sided off his Worx Crescent Suzuki on the fast Clay Hill section, and reflected: “It was a big one – I went high over the top of the bike, but then saved it as it finished up on top of me. Before that everything was fine, the set-up was good, the pace was good, and I am OK.”
Gary Mason put his MSS Colchester Kawasaki fourth fastest, 1m 37.015secs, with a late burst of pace. “We have made changes to the chassis and progress with the electronics and that really shows now, although we know the pace will get hotter,” said Mason, the Privateers Cup winner of last year.
His speed eclipsed that of Josh Brookes, the race winner last time out at Thruxton, who is aiming for more of the same aboard the HM Plant Honda, running only split second down on Mason with Ian Lowry, despite a tumble in the morning session, fighting back to post a strong sixth best time on his debut with the Motorpoint Yamaha team.
Lowry has taken over the ride from former champion Neil Hodgson who has been forced to quit the sport through injury and he has been strong throughout, with his best lap coming in 1m 37.242secs.
Tommy Bridewell, who missed the previous round after sustaining finger injuries in a crash during practice, bounced back well on the Quay Garage Honda to be seventh ahead of Chris Walker on the second MSS Colchester Kawasaki.
Relentless Suzuki by TAS duo Alastair Seeley and Michael Laverty completed the top ten ahead of the Japanese duo of Yukio Kagayama and six times Oulton Park winner Ryuichi Kiyonari.
Alex Lowes, making his Superbike debut aboard the Redline KTM, ran fastest in the Mirror.co.uk BSB-EVO category with a lap in 1m 38.754secs, almost a third of a second faster than Thruxton double race winner David Anthony riding the MIST Suzuki, with Hudson Kennaugh third best aboard the MAR Kawasaki.