Cal Crutchlow gave Yamaha Sterilgarda good reason to be optimistic ahead of its home race after he posted the fastest time in opening free practice at Monza.

The Briton, a winner for Yamaha in the Supersport category last season, was a top ten mainstay throughout the hour before making his very final lap count with a run to the head of the timesheets.

One of only two riders to dip below 1min 44secs around the Italian circuit, this weekend sporting a revised first turn chicane, Crutchlow was just under a tenth faster than local favourite Michel Fabrizio.

For Fabrizio, who scored his first WSBK victory at Monza twelve months ago, his strong performance will provide a much needed confidence boost ahead of a weekend in which he has vowed to turn around his disappointing recent results.

Fresh from locking out the podium in both Assen races, the British contingent enjoyed another strong session, with Jonathan Rea, championship leader Leon Haslam and James Toseland filling out the top five.

Still, Haslam had to work hard for his fastest time, the Suzuki rider languishing well outside the top ten for the majority of the hour after suffering a technical issue before a late surge pushed him significantly up the order.

Tipped to be the big beneficiaries from Monza's high-speed layout, Max Biaggi proved as much by posting a new fastest speed of 326.9kph on the RSV-4. Even so, it was only good enough for sixth, while team-mate Leon Camier was eighth.

BMW, meanwhile, also had both of its representatives inside the top ten with Troy Corser seventh and Ruben Xaus ninth.

Returning to the scene of his horrific accident last year, Max Neukirchner dabbled inside the top five for a time before eventually dropping to tenth, just preventing Tom Sykes from getting his Kawasaki into the top ten.

Despite Fabrizio's pace in second, it was a tough start to the weekend for Ducati, with the six remaining entrants filling positions 12 down to 17, the rear being brought up by Shane Byrne after he suffered a fall.

Sylvain Guintoli is looking somewhat displaced in 18th position, while Chris Vermeulen's slow road to recovery saw him end the session 20th.

Elsewhere, Daisaku Sakai and Yoshimura Suzuki kicked off their first Monza appearance with a solid 21st, the Japanese rider making big gains by the chequered flag, even if his progress was stunted by an off.


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