Ducati got their World Superbike weekend off to a good start at Miller Motorsports park as Michel Fabrizio, Carlos Checa and Shane Byrne locked out the top three positions in first free practice.

Running with a minimum weight 3kg less this weekend, Checa looked set to come away on top as he became the first rider to break the 1min 50secs, only for Fabrizio to slice another tenth off with an effort of 1min 49.756secs.

Interestingly, Checa produced his best lap despite recording the slowest top speed of any rider, his 293kph proving 9kph slower than Fabrizio. Backing his Althea Ducati team-mate up in third was Shane Byrne, the Briton bidding to turn his disappointing recent form around this weekend.

Title contender Max Biaggi moved up to fourth position in the latter stages, the Italian faring considerably better than arch rival Leon Haslam, who could only manage the 15th fastest time.

Jonathan Rea, a podium winner in Utah last season, was fifth fastest ahead of BMW's Troy Corser in sixth and Tom Sykes in seventh, the Briton impressing as he looks replicate Kawasaki's strong performance at the circuit twelve months ago.

Jakub Smrz led the timesheets until the final ten minutes before sliding to eighth, while Max Neukirchner was also up to second at one stage only to end up ninth. Noriyuki Haga rounded out the top ten.

Elsewhere in the 21-strong field, James Toseland and Leon Camier were 12th and 13th respectively as they learn their way around Miller Motorsports Park for the first time.

Ruben Xaus was 17th fastest after suffering technical difficulties, while Roger Lee Hayden put his knowledge of the circuit to use as he out paced factory Kawasaki rider Chris Vermeulen.