British fans are destined to have something to celebrate when the World Superbike races at Assen get underway this weekend, as the six-strong contingent signals the nation's biggest single race entry for six years.

The combination of Leon Haslam, Tom Sykes, Jonathan Rea, Shane Byrne, Tommy Hill and debutant Stuart Easton ensures that more than five British riders are set to start a WSBK event for the first time in 126 races - since the Brands Hatch round of 2003.

Even so, the first day of action around the Dutch circuit didn't go entirely to plan for the sextet, with Rea and Haslam, Britain's leading representative overall, the only riders to squeeze inside the top ten for provisional qualifying.

Rea was quickest in eighth position, although the Northern Irishman was pleased with his performance on the revised Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR following a tough start to the year.

"I have to say that it's been a really positive day. The guys have worked so hard since Valencia and we arrived here with the main issue fixed, so I really have to thank the team for putting in such an effort.

"There are a couple of smaller problems that have now been uncovered, but I'm confident that we will be able to iron those out tomorrow. I was able to put some consistently good laps together towards the end of the session, when I did my quickest lap, so I'm happy. The CBR is really fun to ride again!"

Outside the top ten, Byrne followed in 13th as he makes his first return to Assen in four years, during which time the circuit has changed.

"The track has changed a lot since I last time raced here in 2004 and 2005. I had some difficulties with the fast changes of direction where the bike seemed a bit rigid. We'll definitely work on that with the team so that we can improve its behaviour on track and prepare ourselves for Sunday's two races and tomorrow's Superpole during which we must get a good starting position."

Sykes, meanwhile, was 15th quickest after seeing his progress hampered by an accident in the closing stages of provisional qualifying.

"I've got a couple of little problems which I feel are restricting me. I really want to pull the trigger and go but until we get to the bottom of these it's a little bit tricky. I had a couple of problems with the front, and not been able to push that last little bit to make the difference round every corner.

"At the end I went into turn one, and thought I was doing everything right but just went down. It wasn't a big one though, so looking forward to tomorrow. We've gathered a lot of information today so hopefully we can put it to good use in the morning."

Althea Honda's Hill remains in contention for a Superpole position in 19th, while Easton - making his WSBK debut this weekend following a last-minute call-up to replace Broc Parkes at Kawasaki SRT - is also in with a shout having ended his first day in 25th, half a second off the top twenty.


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