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Michel Fabrizio has topped first free practice for the penultimate round of the 2013 World Superbike Championship at Magny-Cours, the Italian prevailing in a changeable damp-to-dry session.
Fabrizio, competing in his third event with Pata Honda following mid-season switch from Aprilia machinery, was never far from the top of the timesheets despite evolving track conditions allowing the order to change continuously from start-to-finish.
Indeed, Fabrizio's pace-setting lap would come right at the end of the session as he jumped ahead of local favourite and title contender Sylvain Guintoli with a time of 1min 42.938secs – set in dry conditions but still more than five seconds adrift of the lap record.
Though Guintoli would end FP1 in second place – having waited until the final few minutes to venture onto track -, his rivals would adopt a more cautious approach with Eugene Laverty, Tom Sykes and Marco Melandri just ninth, 15th and 18th fastest respectively.
Up at the front, Chaz Davies was third fastest for BMW, with wet weather specialist Ayrton Badovini a fine fourth and Jules Cluzel fifth, the youngster slipping back in the closing stages having set a series of session-topping laps with just over five minutes remaining.
A strong start to the day for Honda, Leon Haslam was sixth best, ahead of Vincent Philippe and Michele Pirro, the stand-in riders performing well on their respective first outings with Fixi Crescent Suzuki and Alstare Ducati.
Laverty and Davide Giugliano rounded out the top ten, ahead of Toni Elias, Mark Aitchison and David Salom, the latter proving quick early in the session before a crash left him tumbling down the order by the chequered flag.