Michel Fabrizio brought a troublesome first day of World Superbike action at Imola to a close with the fastest lap time during free practice.

Provisional qualifying had to be cancelled when proceedings were delayed by around four hours owing to concerns over the condition of the track surface.

Free practice had been due to get underway at 11.45GMT, but riders refused to set any lap times after declaring the slippery surface to be too dangerous. A subsequent crash for Tom Sykes five minutes into the session forced organisers to halt the action while they attempted to give the circuit some grip.

Nonetheless, free practice would eventually get underway in place of Q1, with home favourite Fabrizio leading the way on the Ducati Xerox, the Italian pushing ahead with ten minutes remaining to deny Ben Spies an early advantage.

The new championship leader had held the top spot from the 35 minute mark, but Fabrizio's 1min 49.895secs lap time was more than enough to demote the American down to an eventual third, the pair being separated by Ten Kate Honda's Carlos Checa.

His team-mate Jonathan Rea celebrated the announcement of his new contract in fourth, ahead of Max Biaggi in fifth, the Italian eager to put on a good show for Aprilia on home turf this weekend.

Yukio Kagayama gave Suzuki something to smile about in seventh, ahead of the sole Stiggy Honda of Leon Haslam and Sterilgarda Ducati's Shane Byrne, the Briton slipping to eighth having been the quickest rider for the early part of the session.

Jakub Smrz and Troy Corser completed the top ten, edging out Superbike debutant Marco Simoncelli, the reigning 250GP champion and future MotoGP rider doing a solid job on his first competitive outing with Aprilia in 12th.

He was quick enough out pace title contender Noriyuki Haga, although the Japanese rider did suffer from the loss of track time having not tested at the circuit in July.

Further back, Sykes recovered from his earlier fall - one which has left him with a cracked ankle - to go 18th fastest.

A sole provisional qualifying session will now take place to decide who goes forward to Superpole tomorrow morning.

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