Reigning WorldSBK Champion Jonathan Rea managed one flying lap of the Losail circuit in free practice one before a crash consigned him to the garage but it was enough to top the session right until the final minute.
Rea put in a 1’59.290 on his second circulation but then lost the front and spent the rest of the 35 minutes in his pitbox while the rest of the pack coped with the slippery, sand-strewn Qatar surface.
Rea’s lap was almost a second faster than everyone until Eugene Laverty rolled out and took second place with 12 minutes left and then topped the session with a 1’58.527, some 0.763s faster than his countryman.
Marco Melandri bagged third place with Leon Camier hauling himself up to fourth with his last effort, although he was almost 1.4s behind the Milwaukee Aprilia man, who may well become Camier’s team-mate at Red Bull Honda in 2019.
Michael van der Mark crashed at around the same time as Rea but was taken to the circuit medical centre for checks. He was subsequently declared fit to continue.
Xavi Fores (Barni Ducati) was the fifth fastest in Qatar, showing once again his fantastic end of season form. Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha) followed in sixth, with Jake Gagne (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) finishing a promising seventh – although he too crashed out with six minutes to go.
The Kawasaki pair of Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) and Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) followed in eighth and ninth, with Loris Baz (GULF Althea BMW Racing Team) rounding off the top ten. Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) could only finish the session in 12th position, with van der Mark’s sole lap leaving him down in 15th.