Factory Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes took the honours in this morning’s opening World Superbike free practice session at Phillip Island but was chased hard by team-mate Jonathan Rea and the Pata Yamaha of Sylvain Guintoli.
Sykes laid down his marker of 1’31.543 with just eight minutes of the period that had been interrupted by light rain to go just 0.0097s faster than Guintoli with reigning champion Rea just another one one-thousandth further back.
But the big shock came as MV Agusta’s Leon Camier shot into third place with six minutes left, lapping on his own to set a 1’31.650 only to be shuffled back a place by Sykes. He was still only a tenth behind the former champion and ahead of old mate Chaz Davies in fifth on the works Aruba Ducati.
Guintoli came out of the blocks fastest, setting a 1’31.779 on only hit third lap and had the second Ducati of Davide Giugliano for company with Michael Van Der Mark’s Honda and and Davies snapping at their heels.
The Frenchman’s time remain quickest when rain began to fall in sector four and then spread to the whole track. Almost the entire field came in except for Dominic Schmitter who went out for a lap and thought better of it.
Everyone stayed garaged until there 18 minutes left. Van Der Mark and Guintoli’s British team-mate Alex Lowes were the first to venture out and Lowes immediately cut his time, jumping into 11th and then ninth while Van Der Mark proved to the field it wasn’t that wet by claiming second with a 1’31.826.
Rea took the lead with 12 laps left after a lap which looked average until he lit up the screens in his last sector and bagged a 1’31.671. He looked safe-ish but it turned out to be ish when Sykes went second on a 1’31.672 to be only 0.001s slower than his stablemate.
Guintoli then went quickest on a 1’31.640 only for Sykes to outpace him with the session topper. Camier had snuck round before to take third but was dropped back one ahead of Davies. Honda’s Nicky Hayden came on strong at the end, taking sixth to finish a quarter of a second off the pace.
Althea BMW’s Markus Reiterberger held on to seventh place, pushing Van Der Mark down to eighth with Giugliano in ninth place. Lowes completed the top ten, just ahead of Xavi Fores’ Barni Ducati. The top 12, which was rounded off by Lorenzo Savadori, are covered by just 0.578s.
It was not a happy session for reigning British Superbike champ Josh Brookes who looks like he is still struggling with his throttle connection feeling. The Australian ended in 18th place and 1.811s off the pace.
1 15 A. DE ANGELIS Aprilia RSV4 RF 315.8
2 1 J. REA Kawasaki ZX-10R 314.0
3 81 J. TORRES BMW S1000 RR 314.0
4 32 L. SAVADORI Aprilia RSV4 RF 312.1
5 60 M. VAN DER MARK Honda CBR1000RR SP 310.3