Carlos Checa continued to show his rivals the way ahead of the 2011 World Superbike Championship penultimate round at Magny-Cours as he topped first qualifying.

The Althea Ducati rider maintained a presence towards the head of the timesheets for much of the session, though it took a last gasp lap for him to deny what would have been a popular result for local rider Sylavin Guintoli.

Indeed, the Frenchman looked to be on course for the Q1 top spot, only for Checa and Eugene Laverty to edge ahead with their final efforts, the top two split by a mere hundredth of a second.

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Behind Guintoli, who ended up third, Tom Sykes completed another strong day for Kawasaki, the Briton himself having headed the timesheets in the closing stages before slipping back.

Guintoli's team-mate Jakub Smrz made it a good Friday for Effenbert Liberty Ducati by posting the fifth best time, ahead of Jonathan Rea, who improve late on to lift himself into the top ten and up to sixth position.

Leon Haslam led BMW's charge in seventh, with his team-mate Troy Corser in ninth, the pair sandwiching the PATA Aprilia of Noriyuki Haga. Joan Lascorz rounded out the top ten.

Elsewhere, Maxime Berger and Mark Aitchison out-paced better fancied rivals in 11th and 12th, leaving Marco Melandri, Michel Fabrizio and Leon Camier perilously close to the Q2 danger-zone in 14th, 15th and 16th respectively.

Just 18 riders took part in Q1 after Ruben Xaus, who crashed early on in FP1, was advised to sit out the afternoon with a review on his weekend's participation to come again in the morning.