On the weekend that he can wrap up the 2008 Bennetts British Superbike Championship, Shane Byrne kick started his efforts with a run to the fastest time in first free practice at Croft.

Needing just to keep his advantage in the standings to three figures in order to make the title a formality, Byrne began his endeavour well to be the only rider to dip below 1min 21secs around a chilly, but dry, Croft circuit.

That was enough to edge out Leon Haslam, who comes here seeking a fourth consecutive victory following the triumphs at Knockhill and Cadwell Park that have lifted him well up into the fight for what will probably be second in the championship.

The person he has to beat though was marginally adrift in third, with 'man of the moment' Tom Sykes less than a tenth behind. The Rizla Suzuki rider had led the way early on, but fell responding to Byrne's fastest time, forcing him to miss the last five minutes of the session.

Elsewhere, there were few surprises, with Leon Camier fourth in the second Airwaves Ducati, just ahead of Karl Harris, Cal Crutchlow and Michael Rutter.

Atsushi Watanabe carried his promising form from Cadwell Park to claim eighth fastest, which was quicker than Donington Park World Superbike standout James Ellison in ninth. Billy McConnell completed the top ten positions.

In the Daily Star Cup, which can also be wrapped up by John Laverty this weekend, the North West Ducati rider was comfortably quickest in 16th overall, just ahead of Gary Mason, who himself is seeking to close the gap to Martin Jessopp in the standings.


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