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Alex Lowes has taken the early initiative in first free practice for the series' annual jaunt across the North Sea to Assen, the Showdown contender setting a fierce pace around the Dutch circuit despite a late tumble.
With this weekend's event heralding the first of three 'Showdown' rounds that will ultimately decide the 2013 MCE British Superbike Championship title, Lowes would prove quickest out of the blocks as he rounded the iconic venue in 1min 38.702secs, half a second faster than his rivals.
This was despite him suffering a fall in the closing stages of the session – which had started damp -, the Samsung Honda rider heading up PJ Jacobsen, the American rookie making the most of his existing knowledge of the Assen circuit having won a British Supersport race for Tyco Suzuki last season.
He was able to get amongst the leading Showdown contenders, with Shane Byrne, James Ellison and Josh Brookes covering third, fourth and fifth respectively, while Jakub Smrz – a former podium winner at Assen in World Superbikes – set the sixth fastest time despite his own slip at turn one.
Having squeezed into the Title Showdown over his team-mate Jon Kirkham, James Westmoreland was just ahead of his Buildbase BMW counterpart in seventh, while series returnee Noriyuki Haga got acquainted with his new surroundings with Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki in ninth and new Milwaukee Yamaha recruit Tommy Bridewell was still a notable tenth despite missing the final minutes because of a crash.
Outside the top ten, Ryuichi Kiyoanri, the sixth and final Showdown contender, was 11th best, ahead of Peter Hickman and series newcomer Danny de Boer, the local rider stepping in for Michael Rutter on the Bathams Honda this weekend.