Althea Racing sent out a warning signal to its factory-backed rivals during provisional qualifying for the opening round of the 2010 World Superbike Championship after Carlos Checa set the fastest time.

A landmark moment for the Italian team, which is making its debut as a satellite Ducati operation in 2010, Checa swept to the top of the timesheets shortly before the midway point, his time of 1min 32.155secs proving just enough to keep factory counterpart Michel Fabrizio at bay by seven thousandths of a second.

Not that Checa's day passed without a hitch, the Spaniard suffering a fall in the latter stages as he attempted to put clearer air between himself and the opposition. As it happens, few riders improved on their lap times in the closing minutes, leaving Checa and his team to celebrate a perfect first day.

In second, Fabrizio got close to Checa with ten minutes remaining, but had to settle for second, while practice pace setter Leon Haslam also fell just short in third position, two tenths adrift on the Suzuki.

The only rider that could have usurped Checa was his own team-mate Shane Byrne, the Briton putting in a determined last effort to go fastest of all through the first sector. A fall shortly afterwards, however, meant the former Sterilgarda rider would have to be content with fourth.

Noriyuki Haga made it four Ducatis inside the top five in fifth, ahead of Max Biaggi, the Aprilia rider again fastest through the speed traps, but not quite as close to the record-breaking 319kph he managed during free practice.

In seventh, Jonathan Rea was Honda's lone top ten representative, ahead of Sylvain Guintoli and Jakub Smrz, the Czech rider ending up ninth despite two offs.

Cal Crutchlow was once again the faster of the two Yamahas, with team-mate James Toseland back in 13th after he lost time with a spill himself.

Elsewhere, Chris Vermeulen was a solid 12th for Kawasaki, with team-mate Tom Sykes in 15th, but BMW endured a troubled day, with both Troy Corser and Ruben Xaus suffering falls during the session. In fact, Xaus completed just ten laps all day after a third crash left him sidelined for almost the entirety of provisional qualifying.

Satellite counterparts Reitwagen BMW, however, enjoyed an encouraging first day of competition, with Andrew Pitt shadowing Corser in 17th, while Roland Resch was ahead of Vittorio Iannuzzo, Josh Brookes, Matteo Baiocco and Roger Lee Hayden to sit in a provisional Superpole position.

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