Following a five-week break, the World Superbike Championship has blasted back into action at the Nurburgring with series leader Carlos Checa picking up where he left off in first free practice.

A session that began damp but would dry in the final minutes, Checa stormed to the top of the timesheets in the closing stages as he sent out an early warning signal to his title rivals.

The Althea Ducati rider, who leads the standings by 62 points with four rounds remaining, was just under a tenth quicker than fellow Spaniard Joan Lascorz, who was an impressive second aboard the Kawasaki.

Related Articles

Jakub Smrz held down the third fastest time, though the Czech rider may have fared better had he not fallen with three minutes of the session remaining, while Michel Fabrizio and Leon Camier flew that flag for Suzuki and Aprilia respectively in fourth and fifth.

Smrz's Effenbert-Liberty Ducati team-mate Sylvain Guintoli wound up sixth fastest, ahead of the returning Jonathan Rea, the Ulsterman showing good form in his first official session for almost three months.

Marco Melandri was the best of the title chasers in eighth, with Max Biaggi in 11th, the pair split by the British pair of Leon Haslam and Tom Sykes.

Elsewhere, James Toseland - celebrating his 200th WSBK start this weekend - was 13th fastest, while Castrol Honda's new recruit, Makoto Tamada, was 19th of the 20 riders.