Reigning MCE British Superbike Champion Tommy Hill has taken his turn at the top of the timesheets ahead of the 2012 season opener at Brands Hatch as he paced the third of five free practice sessions around the Kent circuit.

The Swan Yamaha rider had maintained a fairly low profile on the opening day of action but both he and new team-mate Noriyuki Haga gave a more convincing glimpse of their intentions to go first and third quickest during FP3.

Notably, Hill's effort of 46.297secs was a comfortable four tenths quicker than the opposition on a circuit that began damp but had dried sufficiently for the 2011 winner to get fairly close to Shane Byrne's Friday benchmark of 45.954secs.

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BSB returnee Stuart Easton assumed the role of Hill's closest challenger on the Rapid Solicitors' Kawasaki, despite the Scot limiting his mileage to just seven laps towards the end of the session, while series debutant Haga was prevented from making it a Swan Yamaha 1-2 by a mere tenth of a second.

A late improvement helped Alex Lowes up to fourth position at the chequered on the WFR Honda, demoting Barry Burrell, who nonetheless emerged in a fine fifth place on the Buildbase BMW having earlier enjoyed a fairly lengthy stint at the top of the timesheets.

Team-mates Alastair Seeley and Josh Brookes held down sixth and eighth, the Tyco Suzuki pair sandwiching the Padgetts Honda of Ian Lowry, while Dan Linfoot consolidated Buildbase BMW's promising start to the day with a run to the ninth quickest time.

With lap times close yet again as just one second covered the top sixteen, some fancied names found themselves outside the top ten, including Shane Byrne in 14th, Samsung Honda's Michael Laverty in 15th and FP1 pace setter Graeme Gowland in 21st, the WFR Honda rider back on track having missed FP2 due to bike damage.

The fourth of five free practice sessions will take place at 14.50GMT

CLICK HERE to view the full FP3 times.