Irwin saves his best for last to lay down a marker
Andrew Irwin pipped Peter Hickman on his final lap to set the fastest Superbike time of the day during free practice for the penultimate round of the British Superbike Championship.
The Honda Racing ace posted one minute 39.21 seconds in changeable conditions at Donington Park, which was two tenths ahead of Smiths BMW star Hickman.
Showdown contender Danny Buchan was third fastest overall with his morning time of one minute 40.017 seconds ahead of surprise packet Joe Francis.
Taylor Mackenzie, who is deputising for the final two rounds of the series on the Tyco BMW, was third fastest yesterday afternoon and a solid fifth fastest overall.
Scott Redding, leader of the six-rider Title Showdown, was sixth fastest ahead of the second Tyco BMW of Christian Iddon.
The fastest Supersport times came in the dry afternoon session with champion-elect Jack Kennedy quickest with a one minute 32.113 second lap, half a second clear of Integro Appleyard McAdam Yamaha team-mate Brad Jones.
The GP2 pair of Mason Law and Kyle Ryde were close behind.
It was also dry for the second Superstock 600cc practice with Ballynahinch rider Korie McGreevy, second in the Championship chase, putting his Century Racing Triumph top of the time sheets two tenths clear of Liam Delves and a quarter of a second ahead of Championship leader Shane Richardson.
Aghadowey's Eunan McGlinchey, still in the Championship mix on the Team #109 Kawasaki, was ninth fastest.
A strong contingent of local riders took part in the HEL Motostar practice with Scott Swann the best in seventh position on his IFS KTM.
Omagh teenager Jamie Lyons was 11th fastest, with Gary Scott from Castledawson and Padraig Graham from Toomebridge on their BSB debuts 20th and 21st respectively.
An interesting entry was 19-year-old James Hind from Market Rasen, the sensation of the recent Manx Grand Prix. He finished the session in 14th on his standard NSF 250cc Honda.
North West 200 podium finisher and new Superstock 1000cc champion Richard Cooper topped the time sheets yesterday, half a second clear of his Buildbase Suzuki team-mate for the weekend Kyle Ryde, while ex-British MX1 champion Graeme Irwin was 29th fastest.
Qualifying and the first two Junior Supersport, first Motostar, first Ducati TriOptions and Sprint Supersport races take place today with the main Superbike action tomorrow.
Meanwhile, multi-world champion Marc Marquez was lucky to escape injury following a huge crash on his Honda during first practice for tomorrow's Thailand MotoGP race.
Marquez, who was flung over the handlebars, had to visit hospital but returned to the Chang Circuit and was declared fit to take part in the afternoon session, where he finished fastest.