Honda’s Glenn Irwin topped the final Bennetts British Superbike practice session at a sunny, but cool, Donington Park on Saturday morning with the circuit remaining damp after the previous day’s deluge before drying up as the session wore on.
Only eight riders ventured out on track in the early stages with VisionTrack Kawasaki’s Leon Haslam setting the pace at 1’37.302, which was initially more than five seconds quicker than second placed Chrissy Rouse (Crowe Performance BMW).
The latter was pushed down to third by Dean Harrison (DAO Racing Kawasaki) and with ten minutes of the session gone, he closed to within 0.910s of Haslam’s leading time. Jack Kennedy, Storm Stacey, Charlie Nesbitt, Danny Kent and Showdown contender Kyle Ryde were the only other riders to have set a time in those first ten minutes.
Haslam upped his pace to 1’35.509 but Harrison was doing the same and his fifth lap put him just 0.153s adrift of his fellow Kawasaki runner. However, both were upstaged by Ryde who moved to the top of the timesheets with a lap of 1’33.380 on the Rich Energy OMG Yamaha.
The mid-point of the session saw more riders head out on track and conditions were clearly improving as Ryde went quicker again at 1’31.737, although this was some 3.7s faster than Haslam’s earlier time.
With twenty minutes still to go, the running order was Ryde, Danny Buchan, Nesbitt, Peter Hickman, Haslam and Harrison but everyone was now getting into their stride with the timing screens littered with personal best sectors.
Hickman was the first to close to within half a second of Ryde with Haslam joining him soon after, but Buchan knocked him off the top spot, the Synetiq BMW rider posting a 1’30.784 as the first to dip below 1’31.
He lapped slightly quicker next time around and it was Josh Brookes (MCE Ducati) now in second ahead of Haslam, Lee Jackson, Ryde and Hickman although Ryde went back up to second with 15 minutes to go, again in the 1’30s and 0.213s behind Buchan.
Positions were changing all the time with both Jackson (Cheshire Mouldings FS-3 Kawasaki) and Honda’s Takumi Takahashi the next riders to move into first and second but it was Irwin who was broke into the 1’29s, the Honda rider lapping at 1’29.723 on just his second lap. Brother Andrew then moved into the runner-up position, 0.307s adrift on his Synetiq BMW.
Championship leader Bradley Ray upped the pace with a 1’29.636, putting him 0.087s quicker, whilst the Ducati pairing of Tommy Bridewell and Tom Sykes also jumped up the order to fourth and fifth respectively. With three minutes to go, they were both knocked down a spot as fellow Panigale rider Brookes slotted into fourth.
Sykes responded with a 1’29.961, which moved him up into the top three and the third rider lapping in the 1’29 bracket, before Andrew Irwin claimed the position after lapping 0.025s quicker.
The dying moments saw Glenn Irwin go quickest once more with a 1’29.121 some half a second ahead of Ray but it was Buchan who eventually ended up second followed by the OMG rider, Andrew Irwin, and Ducati teammates Sykes and Brookes. Haslam, Ryde, Jason O’Halloran and Bridewell completed the top ten.