British Superbike Championship leader Shane Byrne has started his Thruxton weekend as he means to go on by claiming the quickest time in first free practice.

The former champion held the top spot for the majority of the session to come away with a comfortable four tenth margin over Tommy Hill, the Swan Yamaha man jumping up to second position in the closing stages of the session.

Indeed, save for Byrne's impressive 1min 16.249secs lap around the high-speed circuit, things remained fairly close behind him with just three tenths covering second down to tenth position.

Behind Hill, John Hopkins was an impressive third quickest in his first session around the Hampshire circuit, while Peter Hickman was a fine fourth best on the Tyco Honda, ironically ahead of Ryuichi Kiyonari, whose 2010 bike is now being ridden by Hickman.

Fresh from their strong qualifying turn at the North West 200, Rapid Bathams Ducati were sixth and seventh best, Martin Jessopp leading Michael Rutter, while Steve Brogan put in his most convincing performance on the Jentin Honda yet by claiming eighth best.

James Westmoreland and Josh Brookes completed the top ten, while Michael Laverty was 11th fastest and Croft race winner Jon Kirkham was 13th best.

Elsewhere, Alex Lowes was 22nd best on his first outing aboard the MSS Colchester Kawasaki, the former EVO contender riding in place of the injured Stuart Easton for the foreseeable future, while Loris Baz was a lowly 23rd as he got to grips with Thruxton for the first time.

The first race weekend without runaway EVO series leader Lowes, PR Kawasaki's Simon Andrews was fastest in the sub-category, ahead of WFR Honda's remaining two riders Graeme Gowland and Glen Richards.