Jason O’Halloran set the fastest time in Saturday's final Bennetts British Superbike Championship free practice session at a damp Brands Hatch, with the McAMS Yamaha rider lapping more than a quarter of a second quicker than reigning champion Josh Brookes, the VisionTrack Ducati man enjoying a welcome return to form.
It was Brookes and Gino Rea (Buildbase Suzuki) who set the initial pace but it was Tommy Bridewell (Oxford Products Ducati) who was the first to dip below the 1’40s barrier, the Wiltshire man lapping at 1’39.987s. However, he was quickly upstaged by O’Halloran who went more than half a second quicker.
Times fell continually as the track dried with Lee Jackson (FS-3 Racing Kawasaki) and current Championship leader Christian Iddon (VisionTrack Ducati) both taking their turn at the top of the leaderboard before Bridewell went quickest again at the mid-point of the twenty-minute session.
Iddon then put in a 1’37.775s lap to better Bridewell’s time by the miniscule margin of 0.002s before O’Halloran lapped more than two tenths quicker to go back to the top of the timesheets.
The Australian then lapped at 1’36.813s to put almost a second between himself and the chasing pack with Jackson moving up to second with five minutes of the session remaining, cutting the gap to eighth tenths of a second.
However, O’Halloran’s response was to go quicker again with a 1’36.430s lap giving him an advantage of 1.1s but from that moment on, the gap came down with first team-mate Tarran Mackenzie and then Iddon closing the gap further.
O’Halloran wasn’t to be outdone though with his eventual fastest lap of 1’36.202s reasserting his authority and giving him an eventual advantage over Brookes of 0.293s, the latter getting the better of Iddon on his final lap.
They were the only three riders to break the 1’37s barrier and it was Andrew Irwin (Synetiq BMW) who claimed a good fourth ahead of Jackson, Danny Kent (Buildbase Suzuki), Mackenzie, Bridewell, Danny Buchan (Synetiq BMW) and Glenn Irwin (Honda Racing).
Irwin’s Honda team-mate Ryo Mizuno injured his hand in a spill yesterday and will sit out the remainder of the meeting.