Shane Byrne came fighting back to finish free practice three on top, setting the quickest lap of the race weekend so far, as he and Ryuichi Kiyonari look set to battle for pole position in qualifying at the MCE British Superbike season opener.

The defending BSB champion pinched top spot from his Japanese rival in the final minutes of the last free practice session, notching up a 1m 29.874s, just 0.090s ahead of the Buildbase BMW rider.

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It was Kiyonari who was first to break the 1m 30s barrier in the session but Byrne did just enough to with a fresh tyre to grab P1. The tussle at the top sets up an exciting qualifying session at Donington Park, where Kiyonari achieved a double victory last season.

Milwaukee Yamaha's Josh Brookes continued to look strong on the new YZF-R1, taking third place three-tenths back on Byrne. On a highly competitive manufacturer grid, Honda Racing's Dan Linfoot finished fourth to make it four different bikes at the front.

Byrne's PBM Kawasaki team-mate Stuart Easton rounded out the top five as the head of a five consecutive Kawasaki train, consisting of James Ellison, Luke Mossey, Danny Buchan and James Westmoreland. Smiths Racing's Billy McConnell rounded out the top 10.

In the early stages, Byrne and Kiyonari immediately picked up where they left off in free practice 1 and 2, battling for the top spot on the timesheet. Kiyonari's Buildbase BMW team-mate Lee Jackson crashed unhurt at Redgate in the early stages of the session.

Westmoreland also suffered a fall with just five minutes of the session remaining but the JG Speedfit rider was already comfortably in the top 30 to move into qualifying.

The top 30 riders will progress into qualifying, which sees the remaining contenders assigned their gird position based on their free practice times.

Therefore, Rhalf Lo Turco will start from the back of the grid - while also picking up two points on his racing licence for doing a practice start in the wrong area of the circuit.

Jenny Tinmouth will start on the middle of the back row, with Aaron Zanottti ahead. The 11th row will host David Johnson, Taylor Mackenize and Jakub Smrz and they will miss out on qualifying.