Noriyuki Haga put any lingering doubts that he is still suffering from the effects of his shoulder injury by kicking off the latter stages of the 2009 World Superbike Championship at the Nurburgring with the quickest time in free practice.

The Japanese rider, a double winner around the German circuit last season, was on fine form in difficult conditions, moving to the top of the timesheets with 25 minutes of the session remaining and holding Jonathan Rea at bay.

With the surrounding Eiffel Mountains throwing up its usual mix of changeable weather conditions, a cold and damp Nurburgring greeted the 27 riders as they ventured onto track.

Shane Byrne, who starred in the wet at Misano earlier this year, was the initial pace setter before getting embroiled in a dual over the leading position with Rea and Leon Haslam.

Eventually, Rea would emerge on top, even if he didn't have an answer to Haga, to end up in second overall, a tenth adrift of his Ducati Xerox rival.

Fellow Briton's Byrne and Haslam would settle for fifth and sixth respectively, the pair showing well on their maiden outing at the Nurburgring, just behind Troy Corser, competing on home ground for BMW this weekend, and the ever-present privateer Ducati of Jakub Smrz.

Karl Muggeridge was in impressive form on the way to the seventh quickest time as he quickly adjusts to the Suzuki Alstare Brux, the Australian out pacing tenth place team-mate Yukio Kagayama in the process. Matthieu Lagrive survived a late crash to go a decent eighth on the Althea Honda, ahead of the second factory Ducati of Michel Fabrizio.

Elsewhere, despite suffering a fall mid-session, World Superbike debutant Richard Cooper was a fine 11th on the BMW, putting him immediately ahead of the best Kawasaki rider, Luca Scassa, and Tom Sykes on the Yamaha WSB.

Sykes' team-mate and title challenger, Ben Spies, however, endured a very quiet session, completing just ten laps and having to settle for a lowly 19th, one place ahead of fellow Brno winner Max Biaggi.