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Guintoli, Liberty Ducati fastest at PI

Newcomers Effenbert-Liberty Ducati look every inch the seasoned competitors as they take first and third in the opening test session at Phillip Island.
Fresh from Jakub Smrz's fastest time at the Portimao pre-season test last month, his team-mate Sylvain Guintoli continued Effenbert-Liberty Ducati's impressive World Superbike introduction by claiming the top time at Phillip Island.

The first of four sessions to be held over the next two days around the Australian circuit, the Frenchman – who scored a fastest lap for Suzuki last season – stormed to the top of the timesheets with just over ten minutes remaining.

Going on to command a three tenth advantage over the competition, the former MotoGP rider looked in good form before he blotted his copybook with a fall from the 1098R shortly afterwards at turn four.

It was nearly a Liberty 1-2 as Guintoli displaced long-time leader Smrz, though the Czech rider would eventually be bumped down to third by Jonathan Rea, the Castrol Honda rider getting back to business after his trip to hospital last week following a testing crash.

Michel Fabrizio was fourth quickest on the Suzuki after a late improvement, ahead of WSBK rookie Joan Lascorz, who made continual gains to go a fine fifth – and ahead of Kawasaki team-mate Tom Sykes – on the new ZX-10R.

Carlos Checa led proceedings early on but failed to improve as he slid to sixth, ahead of Marco Melandri and Leon Haslam, the Briton making his first group bow on the BMW this year following the manufacturer's decision to test behind closed doors prior to now.

Sykes and Troy Corser completed the top ten, ahead of local wild-card Josh Waters, who was a fine 11th quickest on the Yoshimura Suzuki, the former Australian Superbike Champion faster than Eugene Laverty, Ruben Xaus, James Toseland and Noriyuki Haga.

Elsewhere, Team Pedercini joined the ranks with its trio of riders Roberto Rolfo, Bryan Staring and Mark Aitchision in 16th, 19th and 21st respectively, while Akira Yanagawa – who will race in place of Chris Vermeulen at Kawasaki this week – was 20th.

Meanwhile, reigning champion Max Biaggi did not venture out on track as he and Aprilia team-mate Leon Camier remained in the pit lane for the opening session.




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