Troy Bayliss claimed the fastest time in an eventful first free practice session for the 11th round of the World Superbike Championship at Donington Park, although it was the British wild-card riders that truly shone in the rainy conditions.

With Donington Park renowned for its slippery surface in the wet, several riders took tumbles as they precariously tried to find a balance between speed and stability.

It meant experience of the Leicestershire circuit counted for more than usual, as lap record holder Bayliss showed by snatching the top spot in the closing stages, almost a whole second up on Brands Hatch double winner Ryuichi Kiyonari.

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British Champion Kiyonari was one of the riders to come off his bike, although his lap of 1min 46.455secs was still enough for the second fastest time, just ahead of Cal Crutchlow, who led a superb session for the five British riders competing this weekend.

With the weather levelling the playing field significantly, Crutchlow, Tom Sykes, Leon Haslam, James Ellison and Chris Walker used their extensive knowledge of Donington Park, particularly in the wet, to bother the top of the timesheets from the word go.

At one point, the quintet were second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth, although it would eventually transpire to leave Crutchlow third, Sykes fourth, Haslam sixth, Ellison ninth and Walker tenth. With bad weather forecast this weekend, there may well be more to come...

Elsewhere, Carlos Checa was a strong sixth best, while Michel Fabrizio and Max Biaggi manoeuvred themselves into the glut of British entrants in seventh and eighth.

Outside the top ten, some familiar names found themselves in unfamiliar positions, particularly Max Neukirchner and Troy Corser, both of whom come to Donington Park disputing second in the championship. Both suffered a fall to end up 22nd and 23rd respectively.

Other expected frontrunners this weekend, Noriyuki Haga and Fonsi Nieto were only 13th and 25th best.