Jonathan Rea got his 2012 World Superbike Championship campaign off to an encouraging start with a run to the head of the field in Q1 at Phillip Island.

The Ulsterman, who is entering his fourth season with the Ten Kate Racing-prepared Honda WSBK team this year, languished towards the bottom end of the top ten for much of the session before leaping to the front with little more than three minutes remaining.

With lap times barely any different to that of free practice earlier in the day, Rea's lap of 1min 31.959secs ensured he was the only rider to crack 1min 32secs.

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His top time prevented a Ducati 1-2-3 after Jakub Smrz had manoeuvred himself to the front of the field with just over five minutes remaining, the Czech rider followed up by Althea Ducati team-mates Davide Giugliano and Carlos Checa.

Reigning champion Checa had led the way for much of the session, but a low-speed tumble at turn ten with 20 minutes to go stunted his momentum and prevented him from going any faster when he did eventually return to the circuit.

Max Biaggi rounded out the top five on the Aprilia, while Niccolo Canepa completed an impressive day for newcomers Red Devils Roma Ducati in a fine sixth place.

Kawasaki pair Tom Sykes and Joan Lascorz followed up in seventh and eighth, though the latter achieved his position with just a single quick lap before a crash ruled him out for the remainder of the session.

Marco Melandri and Michel Fabrizio completed the top ten for BMW Motorrad and BMW Italia respectively, while Leon Camier was 12th fastest on the Crescent Fixi Suzuki, Chaz Davies continued to move up the order with the 13th best time and BSB racer Josh Brookes was 20th after a late off.

Elsewhere, there was a further set-back for the injured Eugene Laverty, who suffered a fall early on in the session. The Irishman, who is already nursing a fractured hand, was transferred to the medical centre for further consultation, but initial reports suggest he will be fit to continue on Saturday.

There was, however, better fortune for Leon Haslam, who was back on track having sat out the FP1 session. Completing just three laps on the BMW to preserve his strength, Haslam was 21st quickest and has signalled his intentions to try and reach Superpole in Q2 tomorrow.