Carlos Checa and Althea Ducati continue to reign at the top of the World Superbike order at Imola following the first qualification session.

The Spaniard was fastest during free practice as well, though it would once again take a swift late effort to get the nod over his nearest rival Jonathan Rea.

Still, Checa's effort of 1min 48.178secs was good enough to put four tenths between himself and Rea around the Italian circuit, which saw two wins for Ducati last season.

Behind Rea, Leon Haslam gave Max Biaggi and Aprilia something to think about with the third fastest time. By contrast, the champion-elect well down in 14th position as he embarked on a quiet start to the weekend.

As expected, Ducati were strong with both Althea and Xerox riders inside the top ten, Noriyuki Haga leading Michel Fabrizio and Shane Byrne in fourth, fifth and sixth.

Cal Crutchlow continued to lead Yamaha's charge in a solid seventh, while BMW got both of its riders inside the top ten in eighth and tenth, the newly re-signed Troy Corser leading Ruben Xaus. The pair were split by Tom Sykes, who continued to show impressive pace on the Kawasaki despite suffering a fall mid-session.

Further back, James Toseland finished his day in 12th position, while Ian Lowry was 21st on the second factory Kawasaki.