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Toni Elias has gotten his home round of the World Superbike Championship off to a strong start by pacing opening free practice at Jerez, ahead of both factory Aprilia riders.

Benefitting from his intimate knowledge of the circuit from his time in GP racing, Elias was consistently amongst the front runners from the start aboard the Red Devils Roma Aprilia before pumping in a late lap of 1min 41.873secs to go fastest by two tenths of a second.

Prior to that, it looked as though Eugene Laverty was set for the top spot, the Irishman rarely deviating from the top spot over the 45min session. However, while Elias would usurp him in the closing stages, with team-mate Sylvain Guintoli in third position, it was still an encouraging 1-2-3 for Aprilia on the weekend is looks set to defend its manufacturers' title.

Behind them, Marco Melandri's late surge on the BMW saw him break a potential Aprilia 'top four lockout' as he squeezed ahead of Davide Giugliano, while title favourite Tom Sykes remains well within range of his main rivals in a solid sixth position.

Perhaps the most surprising performance of the session, meanwhile, came from Lorenzo Lanzi in only his second appearance aboard the Mesaroli Ducati 1098R. Having shown flashes of speed on the relatively dated bike at Magny-Cours, Lanzi was rarely outside the top ten during FP1 to eventually land in seventh place - faster than each of the Honda, Suzuki and factory Ducati 1199 riders.

His feat was very nearly matched by Broc Parkes in tenth place, the Australian making his return to WSBK competition this weekend aboard the YART Yamaha he has been racing in the Endurance World Championship. Despite the team playing down its chances on the 'stock-type' YZF-R1 as it evaluates a possible 2014 entry, Parkes would start the weekend well, just adrift of Chaz Davies and Jules Cluzel.

Behind them, Leon Haslam led the Honda charge in 11th, with Xavi Fores's first timed session on the Alstare Ducati ending with him out-pacing regular rider Ayrton Badovini.

Further back, Leon Camier's return to WSBK action from injury got off to a steady start, the Fixi Crescent Suzuki rider down in 19th, but completing 14 laps.

Loris Baz, meanwhile, will not ride at Jerez this weekend after failing a pre-session medical.


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