Byrne fastest in 'final test' at Brands

HM Plant Honda's Shane Byrne sets the early marker during 'tetsting' at Brands Hatch, ahead of John Hopkins and Tommy Hill.
Shane Byrne announced his return to the British Superbike paddock by taking the fastest time in the first 'official' test of the 2011 season.

With free practice, qualifying and the races to occur over the bank holiday weekend, the 'final pre-season test' was the first official group outing for the class of 2011, with 35 riders making it out onto track.

Byrne, making his return to BSB just over two years after winning the 2008 title, led the way as one of only two riders to dip below 46secs. The HM Plant Honda rider was two tenths faster than John Hopkins, an impressive second best on the Samsung Crescent Suzuki having never dropped outside the top five throughout the session.

Three different manufacturers inside the top three, Tommy Hill made steady improvements to climb to third on the Swan Yamaha, just ahead of Josh Brookes, who led the way with 20 minutes remaining, only to drop to fourth when he suffered a fall during the closing stages.

Hill's team-mate Michael Laverty rounded out the top five, ahead of Stuart Easton the Kawasaki rider giving the new ZX-10R a solid start in sixth position. Having topped a recent test here, Jon Kirkham was seventh fastest, while reigning champion Ryuichi Kiyonari, Gary Mason and SMT Honda's Dan Linfoot completed the top ten.

Further back, BSB veterans Chris Walker and Michael Rutter kept a watching brief in 11th and 12th, while WFR Honda rider Graeme Gowland emerged as the fastest EVO rider in 14th position overall.

It was an impressive session for the new WFR team, with Glen Richards also second in class, though the Australian could have managed better had he not crashed with 20 minutes remaining. The former BSS champion was running inside the top ten at the time.

Elsewhere, it was a low-key start for Motorpoint Yamaha in 15th and 17th – James Westmoreland ahead of Loris Baz -, while Ian Lowry was Buildbase BMW's top rider in 21st.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Shane Byrne - HM Plant Honda
Shane Byrne - HM Plant Honda [pic credit: Ian Hopgood]
Shane Byrne - HM Plant Honda [pic credit: Honda Racing]
Shane Byrne - HM Plant Honda [pic credit: Honda Racing]
Tommy Bridewell, Team WD-40 Kawasaki [Credit: Ian Hopgood]
Sylvain Guintoli, Bennetts Suzuki [Credit: Ian Hopgood]
Shane Byrne, Be Wiser Ducati, [Credit: Ian Hopgood]
Shane Byrne, Be Wiser Ducati, [Credit: Ian Hopgood]
Josh Brookes, Anvil Hire Yamaha, [Credit: Ian Hopgood]
Jason O`Halloran, Honda Racing [Credit: Ian Hopgood]
James Ellison, McAMS Yamaha [Credit: Ian Hopgood]
John Hopkins, Jason O`Halloran, BSB [Credit: Ian Hopgood]
Dan Linfoot, Honda Racing [Credit: Ian Hopgood]
Richard Cooper, Bennetts Suzuki [Credit: Ian Hopgood]
Michael Laverty, McAMS Yamaha, [Credit: Ian Hopgood]
Josh Brookes, Anvil Hire Yamaha, [Credit: Bonnie Lane]
John Hopkins, British Moto Rapido [Credit: Ian Hopgood]
John Hopkins, British Moto Rapido [Credit: Ian Hopgood]

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