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Shane Byrne heads into qualifying for the opening round of the 2013 MCE British Superbike Championship at Brands Hatch as the rider to beat as he held sway at the top of the timesheets in third and final practice.

With warmer temperatures allowing lap times to drop considerably compared to those set on a particularly chilly Friday of practice, Byrne was barely headed throughout the FP3 session as he worked his way down to a time of 46.166secs aboard the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki.

Once again, only Samsung Honda's Alex Lowes could trouble the reigning champion as he briefly headed the timesheets 20 minutes into the session before being shuffled back to second, two tenths down on Byrne.

Indeed, things were much closer behind Lowes as James Ellison maintained his successful acquaintance with Yamaha machinery to go third quickest, ahead of last year's runner-up Josh Brookes on the Tyco Suzuki and Karl Harris, the PR Kawasaki rider continuing to show fine form on his full-time return to the series.

Similarly impressive was James Westmoreland, who hauled his Buildbase BMW up to sixth fastest, and top Superbike rookie racer Keith Farmer on the second of the Rapid Solicitors Kawasakis, the duo out-pacing returning former champion Ryuichi Kiyonari.

Chris Walker and Tommy Bridewell rounded out the top ten on their respective Quattro Plant Kawasaki and Bathams Honda machines, denying PJ Jacobsen and Jakub Smrz, who were only seven tenths off the ultimate pace.

Elsewhere, Matteo Baiocco was lapping in and around the top ten aboard the grid's only Ducati 1199 Panigale before a red flag-inducing crash seven minutes from the chequered flag dropped him to 15th, behind Josh Waters.

Meanwhile, Michael Rutter got his first laps on the Bathams Honda having spent much of the winter period recovering from a leg injury. He was 21st fastest of the 26 riders.


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