BMW Italia's Ayrton Badovini put in a last-lap charge to secure top spot in this morning's opening World Superbike free practice session at Imola, surprising the field with a 1'49.081 to knock Effenbert Ducati's Sylvain Guintoli into second spot with reigning champion Carlos Checa third.
The diminutive Italian had been nowhere on the sheet for most of the 45 minute session and then exploded into number one spot, lapping almost two-tenths faster than Frenchman Guintoli. His lap also demoted Kawasaki's Tom Sykes who ended the session in fourth on a 1'49.365, set with only two minutes to go. The Huddersfield man had been in second but Checa's best lap put him down a peg before Badovini nailed it in.
Aprilia's Max Baggi led the session with only seven minutes remaining but found himself back in fifth while Jakub Smrz, on the second Effenbert 1098R, had also topped the timesheet earlier but slipped down to sixth, just ahead of another Ducati in the shape of Lorenzo Zanetti's Pata-liveried machine. The Italian had been fighting at the top before quicker men got the better of the rookie.
Marco Melandri, on the works BMW, took eighth place but only is a little over half a second off the pace while Jonathan Rea, the first man to break into the 1'49s, found himself sliding down to ninth, just ahead of Joan Lascroz's Kawasaki ZX-10R.
Badovini's team-mate Michel Fabrizio is in 11th with still-injured Eugene Laverty in 12th. Leon Camier is a little over a second off the pace in 13th with the third Effenbert bike of Maxime Berger on place behind. Leon Haslam rounds out the top 15 1.2 in arrears while Chaz Davies continues his Aprilia learning curve in 16th. John Hopkins finished in 19th place but only did 11 laps due to some sort of technical issue.