Kawasaki's Tom Sykes fended off a late charge from fellow World Superbike series challenger Marco Melandri to set the fastest time in first free practice at Portimao this lunchtime in a session that saw the top 15 covered by only one second
Sykes is already within six-tenths of Max Biaggi's two-year-old lap record with his 1'44.343 but Melandri, who came alive in the final 15 minutes of the session, is only a tenth slower with his 1'44.456 - a lap good enough to demote Fixi Suzuki's Leon Camier to third place but only by 0.004s.
Camier was locked in a battle with the second works BMW of Leon Haslam for second place on the sheet until Melandri spoiled the party. The Derbyshire man, who may well announce his joining of the Ten Kate squad this weekend, was four one-hundredths slower than countryman Camier with Ayrton Badovini in fifth.
Sylvain Guintoli was in the top three early on but slipped back to fifth on the Pata Ducati but he is a little over two-tenths slower than Sykes while Michel Fabrizio bagged seventh place.
Reigning champion Carlos Checa complained again of the weight disadvantage thrown at his Althea Ducati and it is showing in Portugal. The Spaniard is only four-tenths in arrears but some 10kph down on top speed so he is once again making it up on the brakes - something that caused him to crash in Germany.
Jonathan Rea, fresh from his MotoGP debut at Misano, is in ninth with series leader Max Biaggi in tenth and only a flat half-second in arrears. Team-mate Eugene Laverty is next along with Loris Baz 12th, Davide Guigliano 13th, Chaz Davies 14th and Lorenzo Zanetti 15th.