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Davide Giugliano has gone quickest during the first free practice session for the 12th World Superbike Championship round at the Nurburgring, just ahead of title rivals Max Biaggi and Marco Melandri.

The Italian was in contention for the top spot throughout the session before emerging best of all amidst a flurry of fast laps in the concluding minutes with his 1min 56.395secs effort.

It was enough to steal the spotlight from Biaggi and Melandri, who looked to be embarking on a tussle for pride in the closing stages, the Aprilia rider just getting the better of his fierce rival by less than a tenth, only to then lose out to Althea Ducati rider Giugliano.

Behind the all-Italian top three, Jonathan Rea was fourth fastest having briefly been quickest with less than three minutes remaining, while 2011 race winner and 2012 title hope Tom Sykes also enjoyed a spell at the top as he made it five different manufacturers inside the top five.

Following a disappointing weekend in Russia, Sylvain Guintoli was sixth fastest on the PATA Ducati, just ahead of the similar machine of Carlos Checa in seventh position.

Leon Camier hauled his Suzuki into the top ten in eighth, in front of countryman and namesake Leon Haslam, while Eugene Laverty shrugged off an early tumble to grab tenth quickest.

Elsewhere, Effenbert Liberty Ducati return to WSBK action this weekend with a three rider line-up having skipped the last Russian round, but caused a surprise in FP1 when it emerged it had replaced long-time rider Jakub Smrz with Lorenzo Lanzi.

Though no formal reason has been given for the swap, not least because Smrz has tweeted that he is currently at the Nurburgring, it appears experienced racer Lanzi will be joining Maxime Berger and Brett McCormick in the troubled team this weekend. The Italian was 20th fastest from 24 riders.