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James Westmoreland has become the surprise timesheet topper in a wet opening free practice at Brands Hatch on his debut outing with Gearlink Kawasaki.

The Yorkshire rider split with JG Speedfit Kawasaki last month at Assen and has been handed a one-off outing with Gearlink Kawasaki for the season finale and has repaid the offer in some style in testing conditions.

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Milwaukee Yamaha's Jakub Smrz acted as Westmoreland's closest competitor under gloomy skies with Tyco BMW Tommy Bridewell third and British Superbike title favourite Josh Brookes in fourth.

Be Wiser Kawasaki's Danny Buchan tucked into fifth ahead of Anvil Hire TAG Kawasaki's Filip Backlund, Shane Byrne and Josh Waters as Team WD-40 duo Jack Kennedy and Taylor Mackenzie rounded out the top ten in a shaken up front pack.

The opening practice session took a gentle start as only a small number of riders venturing out with rain rolling around the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit. With unsettled conditions forecast for the entire race weekend the BSB field focused on wet race set-up having had a surprising lack of wet running over 2015.

Showdown contender Honda Racing's Dan Linfoot took a tumble in the opening stages at Stirling Bend to give his team some early repair work. On the timesheet Westmoreland made an early impression stepping in for Gearlink Kawasaki by vying for top spot on the timesheet with PBM Kawasaki's Buchan.

A late blast of laps from the front runners shook up the order with Smrz, Bridewell and Brookes all enjoying stints at the top but Westmoreland clawed back top spot with a 1m 41.009s - three tenths ahead of Smrz.