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Michel Fabrizio had the honour of topping the first World Superbike free practice session of the 2013 season as he kicked off the Phillip Island event in style by dominating FP1.
The most experienced WSBK rider on the grid, Fabrizio is embarking on his first season aboard Aprilia machinery following an off-season switch to privateer outfit Red Devils Roma, a relationship that has been yielding promising results in testing.
However, Fabrizio would save his best for the first practice session of the race weekend as he swept to the top of the timesheets after just ten minutes, a position he maintained to the chequered flag with a series of improvements.
Eventually concluding the session with a lap of 1min 31.218secs, Fabrizio was a clear five tenths faster than Leon Haslam, while the Italian was notable for producing two other laps that would have also been good enough to finish fastest.
Despite the gap to Fabrizio, Haslam had the satisfaction of being one of only four riders to break into the 1min 31secs bracket, the Honda rider joined by Leon Camier and Sylvain Guintoli on their respective Suzuki and Aprilia machines.
Behind them, Chaz Davies announced his presence with a strong late lap that surged him up to fifth place, the Welshman belying indifferent pre-season pace by out-performing BMW team-mate Marco Melandri.
Tom Sykes, a pole sitter at Phillip Island last year, maintained a low profile in seventh place, ahead of Jonathan Rea, while Carlos Checa was denied the chance to improve on ninth when he fell at turn five mid-way through the session.
Elsewhere, things remain remarkably close up and down the field, even amongst the lesser fancied satellite riders.
Indeed, with only 15 riders now permitted to progress from Q2 to Superpole (down from 16 participants in 2012), competition for the available spots will be keenly fought.
After FP1, Max Neukirchner, Ivan Clementi and Alexander Lundh gave hints of their potential to cause an upset by going 13th, 14th and 15th, ahead of Loris Baz in 16th, Ayrton Badovini – who also fell - in 18th and Jules Cluzel in 19th.