Tommy Hill jumped ahead of John Hopkins at the end of Friday's second free practice session for the sixth round of the 2011 British Superbike Championship at the all-new Snetterton 300 circuit.

Swan Yamaha's Hill worked hard across the two sessions as he learned the intricacies of the Norfolk circuit with its blend of fast flowing and tight, twisty sections.

He had been fourth fastest in the morning but tweaks to his bike put him in the frame to challenge for the top spot on the leaderboard. Hill delivered the goods with his final lap setting a time of 1m 48.866secs, an average speed of 98.17mph.

"The new track is cool and such fun to ride. I'm still getting used to the new layout having put in less lap than most because of my crash in the pre-season test so it is really good that I am at the sharp-end of the timesheets already," said Hill. "We still have a few issues with the set-up of the bike but that was always going to be the case as we have done less mileage.

"At Knockhill, for the last round where I won both races, we had no problems so to be here and be fastest despite having some small issues bodes well for the rest of the weekend," added Hill who starts these races in third place in the standings.

Hill's immediate target is to close the 21 points by which he trails Hopkins. The American ran his Samsung Crescent Suzuki a third of a second down on Hill having ridden consistently throughout the day after setting the pace in the first session.

Hopkins is in confident mood: "The circuit is awesome. The team has given me a real fast bike and I am really comfortable on it at the moment and I am determined to make up the ground I lost with the crash at Knockhill. The new infield section I had a lot of fun drifting out of some of the corners so I can't wait to be back out on track tomorrow.

"The important thing is that I maintain my position in the top six, but at the same time rack up as many podium credit points as possible - the championship is my goal," added Hopkins.

Josh Brookes, a double winner in the corresponding round of last year, was third fastest for Relentless Suzuki marginally faster than Loris Baz aboard the Motorpoint Yamaha and his team-mate James Westmoreland.

Michael Laverty on the second Swan Yamaha set the sixth best time ahead of MSS Colchester Kawasaki's Gary Mason while series leader Shane Byrne lapped in a best time of 1m 49.452secs on the HM Plant Honda in eighth.

Byrne along with Hopkins and Hill is determined to consolidate his position as the scrap for positions in the top six intensifies ahead of the cut-off of the ninth round of the series as only those riders go forward into the "Showdown" for the title.

Among those needing to find extra pace to boost their chances here are the reigning champion Ryuichi Kiyonari who was tenth fastest just ahead of both Jon Kirkham and Peter Hickman who tumbled without injury in the second session.

Graeme Gowland, 13th fastest overall, was the best of the Mirror.co.uk BSB-EVO class riders by half a second from his series leading WFR Honda team-mate Glen Richards with Scott Smart of the MotoRapido Ducati third.