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Marco Melandri has set a convincing benchmark for World Superbike Championship rivals Tom Sykes and Max Biaggi
to respond to as he comfortably paced Q1 at Portimao.
The Italian begins the penultimate round of the season 9.5 points in arrears of Biaggi, but would send out a warning signal to his countryman in Q1 by storming to the top of the timesheets with a 1min 43.196secs lap.
At one stage six tenths faster than his closest rivals, though Aprilia's Eugene Laverty would get closer in the latter stages, he was still a comfortable four tenths adrift of the BMW rider.
With a confident Melandri seeing out the last few minutes of the session from the pit garage, Biaggi attempted to answer back but could only post a minor improvement for seventh fastest as he ended the day behind a glut of British riders.
Having been quickest for much of the session, Sykes had to settle for third best on the Kawasaki, ahead of Honda's Jonathan Rea, BMW's Leon Haslam and Suzuki's Leon Camier.
On the weekend he will likely cede his WSBK
crown, Carlos Checa
was a solid eighth fastest as the best of the Ducati riders, while Michel Fabrizio
and Nurburgring race winner Chaz Davies completed the top ten.
Save for Melandri, the session was otherwise close amongst the chasing pack with little more than a second covering Laverty down to Davide Giugliano in 15th position.
Furthermore, with Lorenzo Zanetti holding down the 16th and final spot to reach Superpole, just three tenths separate him from the 'drop zone', with Effenbert Liberty Ducati rider Brett McCormick on the other the meagre gap.
Joining him in provisional danger is Hiroshi Aoyama, John Hopkins, Alexander Lundh, Lorenzo Lanzi, Matteo Baiocco and Norino Brignola.