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New World Superbike Championship leader Tom Sykes has picked up from where he left off at Imola by ending the first day of free practice around the Moscow Raceway with the fastest time, while his main title rival Sylvain Guintoli continued to struggle.

The Kawasaki rider, whose two wins last time out in Italy lifted him to the top of the standings for the first time in his career, engaged in a late battle with Davide Giugliano for honour of the fastest time, Sykes coming out on top with his final effort.

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Indeed, it appeared as though Althea Aprilia rider Giugliano had done just enough to deny his rival by moving fastest with three minutes remaining, but Sykes would simply save his best until last.

FP1 pace setter Marco Melandri settled for third this time, three tenths adrift of his title rival, while Carlos Checa completed a positive day aboard the Alstare Ducati 1199 Panigale in fourth position.

Eugene Laverty rounded out the top five, but will be disheartened to have been comfortably out-performed by satellite Aprilia counterpart Giugliano, while Leon Camier and Jonathan Rea lifted Suzuki and Honda into the mix in sixth and seventh respectively.

Behind them, Michel Fabrizio was eighth fastest, ahead of Loris Baz and Chaz Davis, while Jules Clluzel, Leon Haslam and Ayrton Badovini followed up in 11th, 12th and 13th.

Meanwhile, title contender Guintoli managed just 11 laps on this occasion as he laboured to the 14th best time. Though he remains comfortably inside the top fifteen he needs to be to make it into Superpole, the ailing Frenchman is 1.2secs off the pace.