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Tom Sykes gave the British flag-waving fans something to cheer about by going quickest in first qualifying for the tenth round of the 2012 World Superbike Championship at Silverstone.

Hoping to be inspired by the British success being enjoyed at the London 2012 Olympics further south, Sykes battled with Carlos Checa for the honour of the fastest lap time as the track steadily returned to optimum conditions following an earlier downpour.

Eventually, Kawasaki's Sykes won out with a best of 2mins 06.115secs, just three hundredths of a second faster than 2011 double winner Carlos Checa on the Althea Ducati.

Perhaps more impressive was the rider appearing in third position, with Sylvain Guintoli going an excellent third fastest on his return to WSBK action, the Frenchman competing in PATA Ducati colours for the first time this weeend following his split from Effenbert Liberty Ducati on the eve of the previous Brno round.

Consolidating Sykes's performance, it was a strong day for the local riders, with Leon Camier and Chaz Davies lifting themselves up to fourth and fifth on their respective FIXI Crescent Suzuki and ParkinGO MTC Aprilia machines.

Jakub Smrz ignored an off-track moment to go sixth fastest, ahead of the late improving Aprilia of Eugene Laverty, while Lorenzo Zanetti, Maxime Berger and last year's pole sitter John Hopkins enjoyed their best Friday performances of the season by going eighth, ninth and tenth.

Indeed, if some of the lesser fancied riders enjoyed strong afternoons, it was a more difficult day for the expected front runners, with Marco Melandri a fairly underwhelming 12th and Leon Haslam 13th.

However, they still fared better than championship leader Max Biaggi, who was only 17th fastest after barely appearing inside the top ten at any point in the session. Joining Jonathan Rea as another unexpected figure in the provisional danger zone, both riders will hope the forecast rain stays away when Q2 gets underway in the morning or face missing Superpole.


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