Peter Hickman powered into the lead of this morning’s first Bennetts British Superbike free practice as he led the pack by over three quarters of a second.
The Smith’s BMW rider was in control for much of the session before being beaten by O’Halloran, but the TT star stuck in a late flyer to eclipse the field by a massive 0.765s and regain control.
Last year’s Thruxton winner Josh Brookes and runner-up Hickman were quickest out of the gates, followed by the Tyco BMW of still-broken Christian Iddon and Luke Mossey.
Iddon soon took over from Be Wiser Ducati’s Brookes at the top with the first 1’16 of the session, but local man Tommy Bridewell followed him into the sub-1’17s moments later.
It was a flurry of action early on and with just seven laps down, OMG Suzuki man Mossey shot to the top of the order before Hickman reclaimed a provisional P1 thanks to a 1’16.307, with Oxford Ducati’s Bridewell lurking less than a quarter of a second behind.
After a lull in action with riders in the pits, Brookes went on a charge and moved up to fourth as team-mate Scott Redding tucked into the top eight just ahead of rookie Ryan Vickers on the RAF Regular and Reserves Kawasaki, with Tarran Mackenzie and Joe Francis nipping at the 20-year-old’s heels.
With just over half the session remaining, Vickers shot forward in the running order as he rocketed up to fourth, splitting third-placed Brooks and Iddon as he clocked a 1’16.727, just under half a second off Hickman’s session-leading time.
But the surprise of the session came from Hickman’s team-mate James Ellison, who chalked up a 1’16.542 to go second quickest and make a Smith’s Racing one-two with under 20 minutes to go.
Santander Salt TAG Racing’s Dan Linfoot powered into the lead with just over 12 minutes remaining, pipping Hickman by just 0.011s to go fastest.
Just three minutes from the chequered flag, however, Iddon was back on top with a 1’16.100 before O’Halloran nudged him back to second with the first 1’15 of the session as the Aussie scorched to a 1’15.999.
But Hickman wasn’t giving in that easy, and he powered back into the top spot with a 1’15.234 with less than two minutes to go - a whopping 0.765s clear of O’Halloran.
With Iddon, Linfoot and Brookes remaining in the top five, Mossey and Ellison had to settle for sixth and seventh.
Bridewell bagged eighth ahead of Buildbase Suzuki’s leading rider Luke Stapleford, while McAMS Yamaha’s Mackenzie completed the top 10.