Graeme Gowland drew first blood at Brands Hatch in this morning's first free practice session as the WFR Honda team made a flying start to the 2012 MCE British Superbike Championship.

Gowland dislodged long-time pacesetter Shane 'Shakey' Byrne on the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki ZX-10R late in the session to take the top spot with a lap of 46.162s, with his team-mate Alex Lowes also edging out Byrne to finish second fastest overall with a time of 46.287s.

Byrne was third ahead of Tyco TAS Suzuki's Josh Brookes, with Michael Laverty on the Samsung Honda Fireblade next.

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Japanese star Noriyuki Haga completed the most laps on his Swan Yamaha but ended the session down in 21st position, almost a second off the pace.

Reigning champion Tommy Hill was 13th fastest, 0.584s adrift of Gowland, who crashed at Surtees as the session reached a conclusion but escaped unharmed.

Scottish rider Stuart Easton, who returns to BSB action after a long fight back to fitness following his life-threatening crash at last year's North West 200, completed the top six on the second Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki ZX-10R.

Less than half a second covered the top 11 after FP1, which was held in sunny but cool conditions at the Kent circuit, with temperatures around nine degrees Celsius.

Current British Supersport champion Alastair Seeley was seventh on the Tyco TAS Suzuki GSX-R1000, followed by the evergreen Chris Walker (Bournemouth Pr1mo Kawasaki), who crashed unhurt at the end of the hour-long session.

James Westmoreland on the third WFR Honda was one place behind Walker and ahead of top Padgetts Honda rider Ian Lowry in 10th.

Lowry's team-mate, Luca Scassa, was 17th, 0.773s behind Gowland, while his Italian compatriot Alex Polita failed to set a time due to mechanical problems on his Jentin Doodson Ducati Panigale 1199

Jon Kirkham on the second Samsung Honda was 12th, one place ahead of MSS Bathams Kawasaki's Michael Rutter.