Yukio Kagayama gave the Suzuki Alstare Brux team something to smile about in opening free practice for the latest round of the World Superbike Championship at Miller Motorsports Park, the Japanese rider setting the early pace in an exceptionally tight session.

Belying one of the longest circuit layouts on the calendar, just a tenth would cover an unusual looking top six, while a mere second would separate Kagayama out front down to 15th place man Karl Muggeridge.

Although regularly inside the top five throughout the session, it was Kagayama's last minute effort that would edge him ahead by the end of the hour, placing him marginally in front of Carlos Checa, the Spaniard having been in charge for half of the session himself.

In fact, the Ten Kate Honda rider - who is revisiting the scene of his double victory last season - was nudged down to third in the end after a superb late attempt by the returning Troy Corser saw him lift his BMW to the heady heights of second position, a fine performance given this is another new venue for the team.

Although he hinted at a dominant performance in the early stages, local favourite Ben Spies had to make do with the fourth fastest time, just ahead of Ryuichi Kiyonari and Shane Byrne, the pair joining the American in being just a handful of hundredths off the lead pace.

Behind them, Luca Scassa made a surprise appearance in seventh on the unheralded Pedercini Kawasaki, the Italian taking full advantage of the fact he is an ex-AMA Superbike competitor and has competed at the Utah venue before.

Championship leader Noriiyuki Haga and team-mate Michel Fabrizio featured in the lower end of the top ten, while Jamie Hacking made a decent first appearance on the Paul Bird Motorsport-prepared Kawasaki in tenth position.

Elsewhere, save for Byrne, it was a tough session for the British contingent, with Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam 13th and 18th quickest, while Tommy Hill and Tom Sykes had to settle for 21st and 23rd.

Just behind them, Lorenzo Lanzi made his first appearance on the DFX Ducati in 25th position, ahead of fellow seasonal debutant Erwan Nigon.


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