Shane “Shakey” Byrne topped the time sheets today at Brands Hatch in the final test ahead of the opening round of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship.

The HM Plant Honda rider looked like he had never been away as he returns to the series following two years away racing in the World Superbike Series. A strong challenge from series newcomer John Hopkins on his Samsung Crescent Suzuki gave a taste of what should be an interesting battle in the season ahead.

With a lap time of 45.777 seconds in the closing stages of the session Bryne admits there is still a lot to sort out despite topping the time sheets. “We've got work to do. There are a few things to try to get me running into the corners a bit faster, then we will away with it.” said Byrne.

American Hopkins lapped just 0.170 seconds behind the former British champion and was happy with the work completed so far. “We confirmed that good settings that we made then and used this as a good shakedown so I am well pleased with the time even though we did a lot less laps than the others.

“This is no indication really of what is to come. We have two more days of riding before the races so there is still a long way to go and everyone will improve their lap times, but I believe that we have the capability to do that too,” added Hopkins.

Tommy Hill pushed hard to finish the session third with a lap of 46.053 while Australian Josh Brookes secured fourth place but was rueing what could have been as he  took a tumble at Druids.

Michael Laverty and Stuart Easton lapped the Kent circuit with an equal lap time of 46.132 seconds to put them ahead of Jon Kirkham.

Reigning champion Ryuichi Kiyonari  finished the session in eighth place but wasn't too concerned with the result today. “I am still not fast enough, but I know why,” said Kiyonari. “We can make changes but it is not so bad as everyone is so close,” he added.

Gary Mason and Dan Linfoot rounded out the top ten while Chris Walker finished ahead of Michael Rutter and Martin Jessopp.

Former Supersport and Superstock champion Glen Richards escaped injury after he slid off at Druids.