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Marco Melandri has ended the first day of World Superbike action around Laguna Seca at the head of the timesheets after a last gasp lap denied an inspired Niccolo Canepa from grabbing the headlines.
Canepa, standing in for the injured Carlos Checa at Alstare Ducati, had looked on course to emerge as the surprise pace setter at the end of Q2 after surging ahead of a tightly-packed field in the closing stages with the first ever WSBK lap to dip below 1min 24secs.
However, his time wasn't enough to deny Melandri's final effort of the day, the BMW rider finally hooking up a clean lap having repeatedly threatened to go quickest with numerous fastest splits, only to keep losing ground in the final portion of the circuit.
Nonetheless, his 1min 23.775secs lap time would put him two tenths up on countryman Canepa, who was still mightily impressive in second place having taken little time to reacquaint himself with the rigours of Superbike competition.
Having set the pace for much of the session, Kawasaki's Tom Sykes was bumped down to third position, but has at least proven himself to be competitive around a circuit he has never lapped before.
His main title rival Sylvain Guintoli sits just behind him in fourth place after Q2, with Chaz Davies completing the top five to conclude a positive first day for the factory BMW team.
Having played second fiddle to MJM Suzuki team-mate Roger Lee Hayden in FP1 and Q1, wild-card Danny Eslick was an impressive sixth fastest following a late improvement, the American out-performing David Giugliano and Q1 pace setter Eugene Laverty.
Behind them, Leon Haslam hauled his Honda into the top ten in ninth place, with Ayrton Badovini shrugging off an early crash to end the day in tenth place, albeit well behind his new team-mate.