Michel Fabrizio picked up where he left off from testing at Kyalami six months ago by recording the quickest time in opening free practice for round six of the World Superbike Championship in South Africa.

Returning to the southern hemisphere less than a week after he broke his WSBK victory duck at Monza, Fabrizio continued to shine around Kyalami having dominated proceedings during a pre-season test back in December.

Setting a benchmark lap time of 1min 40.098secs just twenty minutes into the session, a slightly quicker lap of 1min 40.067secs was enough to resist the attentions of several late attempts by rivals to snatch it off him.

Although Fabrizio was quickest throughout, things were certainly close towards the front of the field with less than a tenth covering the top four positions.

Beyond the Italian, the three contenders all hailed from Honda's camp, with Carlos Checa getting closest to Fabrizio in second, followed closely by British pair Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam. Haslam's effort is all the more noteworthy since he hasn't seen Kyalami in five years.

A good session all round for the British contingent, Shane Byrne was an encouraging sixth quickest for Sterilgarda Ducati, while Tom Sykes was tenth best and ahead of Yamaha team-mate Ben Spies.

Even so, some surprise names filled the top ten positions, with Shinya Nakano putting in a convincing performance in fifth on the Aprilia, while WSBK debutant and local favourite Sheridan Morais was a hugely impressive seventh on the Kawasaki.

Equally promising was eighth position for returnee Gregorio Lavilla, the Guandalini Ducati rider making the most of being one of the few riders in the field to have competed at Kyalami at WSBK level before.

More fancied riders had to be content with lower positions than usual, Noriyuki Haga ending up ninth, five tenths behind Fabrizio, while Max Biaggi and Ben Spies found themselves in 11th and 12th positions respectively.

Elsewhere, Fonsi Nieto marked his return with a steady run to 20th, while Steve Martin was 24th of the 25 riders, albeit a respectable 2.7secs off the leading pace.

Meanwhile, Regis Laconi didn't take part in the session after crashing heavily on his first flying lap. The accident prompted a red flag, with the Frenchman being taken to the medical centre for checks.

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