John Hopkins proved both he and Samsung Crescent Suzuki will be capable of taking the fight to the World Superbike regulars on their wild-card outing this weekend as he topped first free practice at Silverstone.
The American, currently disputing the British Superbike Championship title, maintained a presence towards the top of the timesheets throughout the hour, consistently lowering his personal best as the track conditions improved.
Indeed, the leaderboard changed repeatedly over the course of the session, with many riders who held front running positions with ten minutes remaining, such as title contenders Max Biaggi
and Marco Melandri, finding themselves well outside the top ten by the chequered flag.
Hopkins's best lap came in the final minutes, the former MotoGP star – who started a handful of WSBK races for Stiggy Honda in 2009 – emerging with a time of 2mins 06.667secs.
That was enough to put two tenths between himself and Leon Camier, who was another to hold down a top five position throughout the hour on the way to second fastest.
Jakub Smrz made late gains to place himself in third position, ahead of James Toseland, who showed few effects of the troublesome wrist injury that has plagued his season on the way to the fourth best lap. Indeed, the BMW Italia rider – who is vowing to make a full comeback this weekend – was competitive from the start and will likely be buoyed by this early result.
Championship leader Checa was fifth best, the Spaniard no doubt heartened to see Melandri and Biaggi well down the order in 14th and 16th. Indeed, Biaggi didn't crack the top ten until half-way through the session, the Italian proceeding to slip back from that point.
Having spent much of the hour towards the bottom of the top twenty, Troy Corser
leapt up to sixth on the BMW, just ahead of team-mate Leon Haslam, while Michel Fabrizio, Tom Sykes and Sylvain Guintoli completed the top ten.
Further back, Alex Lowes was 12th fastest having gotten to as high as second position with 15 minutes remaining, the Castrol Honda stand-in promptly crashing at turn three.
Even so, he remained faster than Eugene Laverty in 13th, while WSBK debutant Jon Kirkham, on the second Samsung Crescent Suzuki was 18th best.