Josh Brookes threw down the gauntlet in this morning’s first Bennetts British Superbike practice as he pipped Peter Hickman for the top spot.
The Be Wiser Ducati rider, whose record at the Brands GP circuit could make him a bookie’s favourite for victory this weekend, went just 0.020s faster than the Smith’s BMW ace to control FP1.
Luke Stapleford threw his hand in with a quick lap early on to top the times before Scott Redding and Team WD40’s Claudio Corti eclipsed the former World Supersport regular.
But Brookes then clocked the fastest time over a second clear of the field before rain began to fall in all sectors and forced riders into the pits.
With just under 30 minutes to go, the sun poked through and Santander Salt TAG man Dan Linfoot went quickest as Smith’s boys Hickman and Ellison both powered ahead of Brookes to take over second and third.
Linfoot went even faster to bolster his bid for the top spot, but Quattro Plant JG Speedfit Kawasaki’s Glenn Irwin looked to have finally found form as he stormed up to third before Oxford Ducati’s Tommy Bridewell nudged him back a place.
TT star Hickman went 0.3sec faster than Linfoot to take over at the top with just over 20 minutes remaining, while Brookes followed team-mate Redding up the order as they slotted into fourth and fifth.
While the top two continued to shuffle for the lead, Tarran Mackenzie and Danny Buchan slotted into the top six, but it was all change at the chequered flag flew as Brookes shot to the top.
The Aussie clocked a 1’26.439 to lead Hickman by a mere 0.020s, while PBM compatriot Redding was just 0.030s further adrift.
Linfoot and McAMS Yamaha’s Mackenzie completed the top five while Buildbase Suzuki man Stapleford and Bridewell went sixth and seventh fastest.
FS-3 Kawasaki’s Buchan, O’Halloran and Honda Racing’s Andrew Irwin completed the top 10.