Leon Haslam led the way as the 2018 Bennetts British Superbike Championship got underway at a chilly Donington Park.
Persistent overnight rainfall and cold temperatures left the track sodden for the day’s opening session with riders running almost ten seconds off what would be considered normal wet-weather pace at the 2.5-mile Leicestershire circuit.
While the track had largely dried for the afternoon’s FP2, a wet part of track at the bottom of Craner curves saw most riders head out on wet tyres at the start of the session with only a handful moving on to intermediates as time progressed.
Haslam stormed to the top of the timesheets with a 1’39.690 towards the end of the session to sit 0.138 seconds ahead of Tyco BMW’s Christian Iddon.
James Ellison was third for Anvil Hire TAG Racing while Jake Dixon and Bradley Ray rounded out the top five.
Jason O’Halloran was sixth quickest for Honda Racing ahead of rookie Gino Rea on the OMG Suzuki while Jakub Smrz set the eighth fastest time of the day for PR Racing BMW. The Suzukis of Richard Cooper and Tommy Bridewell completed the top ten.
Despite the mixed conditions, the day wasn’t necessarily filled with drama. Peter Hickman was the first faller of the year in FP1 as he tucked the front unhurt at Melbourne loop, Sylvain Barrier and William Dunlop were also fallers in the opening session.
Josh Brookes crashed at Coppice mid-way through the second practice session, collecting FS3 Racing’s Danny Buchan as he fell – both riders were fortunately OK.
Be Wiser Ducati’s Glenn Irwin crashed heavily on the exit of Goddard’s in the closing moments of FP1 and was taken to hospital with a suspected neck injury. However, after further assessment at hospital he has since been declared fit to ride on Sunday.
Qualifying for the opening Bennetts BSB race of 2018 will now take place tomorrow morning following organisers introducing a change to the schedule, which sees the first race brought forward to Sunday afternoon, in light of the weather warnings for Easter Monday.