Tommy Hill defied the pain of a shoulder injury to power his Swan Yamaha to the top of the free practice leaderboard ahead of the third round of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship at Croft.

Hill who is eager to put his title bid back on track was passed fit to ride at the North Yorkshire circuit after sustaining ligament injuries in his left shoulder in a heavy tumble during the raceday warm-up at Oulton Park.

Riding in short bursts of eight or nine laps Hill was on the pace throughout the two sessions as he worked with the team to make riding more comfortable.

Then in the final moments of the afternoon session Hill upstaged Rapid Solicitors Bathams Ducati rider Michael Rutter with a lap in 1m 20.763secs, an average speed of 94.72mph, just 0.043secs faster.

Hill said: "I'm well happy with that, but I have to keep my feet on the ground and remember that I am injured. I was running at 85-90% for much of the time but on that last lap just pushed a little bit more. I have to be realistic over the weekend."

He is eager to take as many points as possible but mindful not to aggravate the injury which he hopes will be well on the way to being healed by the fourth round at Thruxton at the end of the month.

Rutter found himself sandwiched between Hill and his Swan Yamaha team-mate Michael Laverty, a race winner in the corresponding round of last year.

The Ulsterman had set the pace in the morning session and though he improved his lap times by a little over half a second, Laverty had to settle for third fastest. He was a tenth of a second faster than MSS Colchester Kawasaki rider Stuart Easton who is aiming for a repeat of his winning ride of two years ago at the circuit.

French teenager Loris Baz who was fifth fastest on the Motorpoint Yamaha was within a quarter of a second of Hill in tightly fought sessions with the top 10 separated by less than a second. John Hopkins, still buoyant from his maiden race winning ride in BSB, quickly learned the circuit to run his Samsung Crescent Suzuki sixth fastest ahead of local rider James Westmoreland aboard the second Motorpoint Yamaha.

Josh Brookes with a lap in 1m 21.282secs aboard his Relentless Suzuki eased series leading Shane Byrne back into ninth place. The HM Plant Honda rider worked hard to resolve set-up issues and reflected:

"It's Friday 13th and I have to say I am very happy to get through today incident-free. It hasn't been a bad day for us and we have good speed but we still need to make some refinements before qualifying."

Peter Hickman riding the Tyco Honda completed the top ten, one place and only 0.282 secs up on Alex Lowes the leader of the BSB-EVO class. Lowes put in a lap of 1m 21.567secs aboard his WFR Honda to be a tenth of a second up on his PR Kawasaki rival Simon Andrews with Glen Richards third fastest in class.

Reigning champion Ryuichi Kiyonari found himself back in 15th slot on the time-sheets, sandwiched between Andrews and Richards.



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