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Alex Lowes kicked off his tenure as a factory-supported Honda rider in style by comfortably pacing the first official MCE British Superbike Championship test of the 2013 season at Donington Park.

The youngster, who moves over to Samsung Honda this year following a race-winning turn on the WFR Honda in 2012, hit the top of the timesheets during the closing stages of the day's second session, putting him three tenths up on reigning champion Shane Byrne.

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The first of four official test dates to be held before the season officially gets underway at Brands Hatch in April, Lowes trailed Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki's Byrne during the day's opening session, but struck back with a lap of 1min 31.283secs in session two before sitting out the third and final session.

Byrne, who also sat out the last hour of running, remained second, ahead of Lowes's team-mate Ryuichi Kiyonari, the Japanese rider proving competitive on his return as he prepares to go head-to-head with Byrne for a record-breaking fourth title.

With several riders choosing not to venture out for the third session of the day, Tommy Bridewell was able to take advantage as he vaulted up to fourth place on his Quay Garage Racing-run Bathams Honda, displacing impressive rookie Keith Farmer on the second of the PBM-supported Kawasakis.

Going in the opposite direction to Bridewell by switching from Honda to BMW machinery in 2013, James Westmoreland was an encouraging sixth quickest on the Buildbase bike, ahead of Jakub Smrz, who will be hoping his run to seventh on the Padgetts Honda will be enough to secure the investment he needs to join the team this year.

Bournemouth Kawasaki's Danny Buchan notched up the eighth fastest time, ahead of Robbin Harms on the Doodson Honda and another series returnee James Ellison, who in turn debuted Shaun Muir Yamaha's new Milwaukee colours.

Outside the top ten, Chris Walker was 11th quickest, ahead of Josh Waters, who spent his day learning his way around Donington Park and the Yamaha YZF-R1. Peter Hickman, Karl Harris and Jon Kirkham rounded out the top fifteen.

In all, 21 of the 26 riders confirmed to be competing in BSB this year were present at Donington Park (not including Smrz). Absentees included Tyco Suzuki duo Josh Brookes and PJ Jacobsen, Luke Quigley and Howie Mainwaring on the MH Kawasaki, and Michael Rutter on the Bathams Honda.

Testing resumes at next week at Brands Hatch on Tuesday 19th March, followed promptly by two days at Snetterton on the Wednesday and Thursday.

The opening round of the 2013 MCE British Superbike Championship will take place on 7th April at Brands Hatch.