Lloyd and Jones BMW rider Joe Francis topped the opening Bennetts British Superbike free practice at Brands Hatch this morning.
Held in damp conditions, Francis was in the hunt from early in the session but his paced dropped off right until the end when he deposed the Smiths BMW of Peter Hickman with Quattro Kawasaki’s Ben Currie in third.
Title contender Josh Brookes was in the thick of it right from the off, while Hickman, Danny Buchan and Ryan Vickers queued up to take his place at the top of the timesheet.
The Be Wiser Ducati man set a 1’37.541 for top spot but was immediately usurped by Hickman while Tommy Bridewell put in a brief top-three appearance.
McAMS Yamaha’s Jason O’Halloran also staked a claim, hopping into third but Hickman extended his gap at the top to seven-tenths with a 1’36.838.
Honda’s Andrew Irwin made a flash appearance in second not long after but he was bounced down the order.
With three minutes left, it looked like Brookes had sealed the deal with a 1’36.602 but Francis was right there. lapping 0.003s slower.
The Australian upped his game again with a 1’36.028 but Hickman charged to the top again.
Francis then put his S1000RR in top spot with a 1’35.483 which no-one could match. Hickman ended on a 1’35.625 with Currie on a 1’35.900.
Brookes finished a tenth further back with Irwin in fifth and O’Halloran in sixth. Title contender Scott Redding hauled his way up to seventh with his last lap with Tarran Mackenzie next along.
Harry Truelove and Josh Owens completed the top ten with Bridewell, Vickers, Sam Coventry, Dean Harrison and Xavi Fores rounding out the top 15.