Ben Spies began his quest to close down the gap to Noriyuki Haga in the World Superbike Championship standings in style by claiming the quickest lap time in opening free practice at Donington Park.

Spies enters the weekend with a 48 point deficit to leader Haga, but with Donington Park heralding his MotoGP debut last season, the American made the most of his prior track knowledge to produce a best lap of 1min 30.962secs - the only rider to slip beneath 1min 31secs.

As expected, the British contingent made a strong early showing, with five of the seven riders competing this weekend squeezing into the top ten.

Somewhat more surprising though was Leon Camier's immediate pace on the Airwaves Yamaha, the wild-card topping the timesheets from the word go before Spies overhauled him with less than twenty minutes remaining.

Although he too lowered his lap time by some six tenths as track conditions improved in the latter stages, he could only get as close as two tenths to his Yamaha counterpart.

Local Derbyshire rider Leon Haslam enjoyed a stint in front too with ten minutes remaining, but would eventually be forced to settle for third position on the Stiggy Honda.

A good late effort from Michel Fabrizio was able to wrestle the Ducati flag from former British Superbike Champion Gregorio Lavilla, the Spaniard using his extensive experience from Donington Park to run as high as third on the Guandalini Ducati before settling for fifth. It was a good session for the Guandalini team as a whole with Lavilla's team-mate, Misano pole sitter Jakub Smrz, setting the sixth best time.

John Hopkins injury woes look to be behind him finally as he impressed on the way to seventh, while Tom Sykes, Shane Byrne and James Ellison flew the British flag from eighth to tenth.

The only Britons to miss out on the top ten were Jonathan Rea in 13th, although his progress was stymied by a crash earlier in the session, while Simon Andrews was classified 22nd and the second best Kawasaki.


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