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A last gasp effort by Marco Melandri was good enough to see him claim the top spot in first free practice for round eight of the World Superbike Championship at the Moscow Raceway.

The Italian traded fastest times throughout the session with countryman Davide Giugliano, but while the latter rider appeared to have the fastest time in the bag when he went quickest by three tenths with four minutes remaining, Melandri's final effort would sneak him ahead.

Coming out top by seven hundredths of a second ahead of Giugliano, Melandri - a race winner in Russia last season - was in turn three tenths clear of championship leader Tom Sykes aboard the Kawasaki in third.

Arguably his most convincing free practice session since the season opener at Phillip Island, Carlos Checa was a positive fourth fastest on the still-developing Alstare Ducati 1199 Panigale, while Loris Baz rounded out the top five on the second of the Kawasakis.

Late gains by Michel Fabrizio would see him up to sixth place, ensuring both satellite Aprilias out-paced their factory counterparts, the Red Devils Roma rider ahead of Chaz Davies and Eugene Laverty.

Behind them, young rookie Jules Cluzel headed up the Suzuki challenge in ninth place, ahead of British trio Jonathan Rea, Leon Camier and Leon Haslam.

Despite suffering with a collarbone injury this weekend after suffering a fall whilst cycling this week, title contender Sylvain Guintoli completed the most laps of any rider as he evaluated his condition. The Frenchman has vowed to race this weekend, though he could only manage a modest 13th quickest on the Aprilia RSV4.

Just 18 riders will participate in Russia this weekend with Noriyuki Haga - who competed in a one-off outing with Grillini BMW at Imola - not out again, while HTM Racing's Ivan Clementi remains still absent from action having seemingly run into financial issues.


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