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Tom Sykes put in a last-gasp flying lap to post the fastest time in FP1 at round seven of the World Superbike championship at Imola.

Sykes, returning to the scene of his first ever World Superbike pole position, ended up seven hundredths of a second faster than Davide Giugliano and Pata Honda's Jonathan Rea in third.

Indeed the Northern Irishman was fastest with a minute of the session remaining but nevertheless continues Honda's competitive resurgence at the front of the field, and finished 0.2secs back of the Italian.

Marco Melandri took a late excursion through the gravel at the Acque Minerali section when pushing to improve his time, but had to settle for fourth. His BMW Motorrad teammate Chaz Davies was a good deal further back, finishing 13th.

Championship leader Sylvain Guintoli was fifth just ahead of Michel Fabrizio's Red Devils Racing Aprilia. Eugene Laverty was just outside the top ten in 12th.

One of the biggest improvers in the session was Leon Haslam in seventh, posting his fastest session time since the third round at Assen, before his leg breaking accident.

Ayrton Badovini was confident the flowing undulations of the Imola circuit would benefit his Paningale and he started the session brightly, circulating inside the top three. He eventually slipped to eighth, just ahead of teammate Carlos Checa.

Noriyuki Haga, racing in the class for the first time since 2011 in Portim?o, looked to be a little rusty on his Grillini BMW at first, pulling over into the path of Chaz Davies at the Variante Alta chicane on his first lap out. He ended over four seconds slower than Sykes' time in 17th but was quicker than teammate Vittorio Iannuzzo.

Although Sam Lowes got within half of a second from his lap record in the World Supersport session, the fastest Superbike riders were under two seconds from Syke's pole record here last year.