Superbikes - Sepang WSBK: Melandri, Elias top first free practice

Aprilia’s Marco Melandri and Red Devils Roma’s Toni Elias found that previous track knowledge from their MotoGP days proved to be valuable during the first World Superbike free practice session at Sepang.

Superbikes - Sepang WSBK: Melandri, Elias top first free practice

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Sepang WSBK: Melandri, Elias top first free practice

This is a new track for the series, but both men have raced at the circuit before – and it showed, with Melandri posting the fastest time of 2’05.167, with Elias one tenth off with a 2’05.291. Melandri was not the only Aprilia on the provisional front row – his team-mate Guintoli rounded off the top three after a 2’05.291 lap.

In the beginning it was Pata Honda's Jonathan Rea who initially set the pace with a 2’07.946 in the opening minutes, only for young Frenchman, Kawasaki's Loris  Baz to go faster by nearly half a second, quickly followed by Guintoli with a 2’06.708. The session was red flagged after seven minutes after Morias had a technical problem.

After just 15 minutes of lap time,  Elias showed that previous track experience was paying off after he set a 2’06.327 to head the pack. Kawasaki's Tom Sykes has had some experience of the Malaysian circuit after testing there back in 2010, and with just under an hour remaining in the session went up to second fastest on the timing-screens – just two tenths off the time clocked by Elias.

Sykes was not giving up just yet and bang on the 50 minute mark lapped a 2’06.035, going three tenths faster than the Spanish rider. Frenchman Guintoli also has previous track experience and was able to edge Elias down to third, but the Aprilia man was still a tenth off the time clocked by Sykes.

With ten minutes of track time remaining Giugliano, from the mid-pack went straight to the top of the timesheets with a 2’05.926, but Sykes hit back immediately going two tenths quicker than the Italian rider to regain his spot on provisional pole.

But Guintoli’s track knowledge from his 250cc days gave him that extra edge to topple Sykes with a 2’05.484 with four minutes of track time available. But former Moto2 racer Elias went one better and climbed back to the number spot of the timing-screens with a 2’05.222.

Melandri  left it until the dying minutes to make an impact on the top three after having technical difficulties at the start of the outing, but he made up for it. A 2’05.167 was enough to make him the fastest rider on the Sepang circuit. Sykes ended the morning just inside the top five with a 2’05.703. Ducati’s Chaz Davies was only one-four hundredths of a second slower than his team-mate, Giugliano in sixth, followed closely by Rea and Baz.

Pata Honda’s Leon Haslam got the better off Voltcom Suzuki duo Alex Lowes and Eugene Laverty. The Smalley rider lapped a 2’06.846 going only 0.01 quicker than Derby-based Lowes and his Irish garage-mate, Laverty.

BMW Italia’s Leon Camier is still nursing a rather bad bicep injury after a crash in qualifying during the last round at Donington Park, but he has flown over to the circuit and managed to make it out on track. He ended the morning in a respectable 15th. Alstare’s Christian Iddon on board his Evo Bimota BB3 machine ended the session in 18th on the timesheets with a 2’08.610.

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