Tommy Hill has started the 2011 MCE British Superbike title showdown as he means to go on by pacing opening practice at Donington Park by more than a second.

Marking a superb start to the weekend, Hill hit the front in the final two minutes after a flurry of activity on a drying circuit, the Swan Yamaha rider eventually emerging just over a second faster than Michael Laverty, who recovered from an earlier crash to prove competitive.

Jon Kirkham was third fastest on the Samsung Crescent Suzuki, ahead of title fighters Josh Brookes, Shane Byrne and John Hopkins, the latter back on track after his spell out through injury.

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WFR Honda EVO riders Glen Richards and Graeme Gowland were an impressive seventh and eighth best, ahead of the sixth and final title contender, Ryuichi Kiyonari. Chris Walker completed the top ten.

Further back, Gary Mason made a little bit of history by lapping with the 2012-specification MSS Colchester Kawasaki, the Briton going a solid 14th fastest having been fastest initially.

He was ahead of James Westmoreland and Alex Lowes, who are making their respective debuts for WFR Honda and Motorpoint Yamaha this weekend. Ian Lowry, another rider switching teams this weekend - to MSS Colchester Kawasaki - was 20th best.