Tom Sykes's stock ahead of the 2012 World Superbike Championship has been given a further boost as he assumed the top spot in the third of four official test sessions at Phillip Island.
Having impressed as Carlos Checa's closest rival during unofficial group testing a week ago, Sykes sprung to the front during Tuesday's morning session with a best lap of 1min 31.648secs.
Setting the benchmark relatively early in the 135-minute session, Sykes's time was enough to resist Checa right to the end of the session, albeit by a slender 0.004secs margin.
Indeed, Althea Ducati's Checa put in a series of sub-1min 32secs laps in the final minutes, but while he was often faster than Sykes in the first two sectors, he would fall short in the latter half of the lap.
Similarly, Ducati counterpart Jakub Smrz was also consistently fast in the first portion of the lap before falling away, though the Effenbert-Liberty rider was still able to produce a good time to go third quickest.
Jonathan Rea, who lost time with a crash, and Max Biaggi rounded out the top five, the latter only making it on track for the second-half of the session and taking even longer to get into the upper echelons of the timesheets.
Marco Melandri was sixth best on the sole factory BMW in the absence of the injured Leon Haslam, ahead of rookie Davide Giugliano and Leon Camier, the pair making good gains for seventh and eighth quickest.
Sylvain Guintoli and Joan Lascorz rounded out the top ten, edging out Michel Fabrizio, Niccolo Canepa and Hiroshi Aoyama.