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A late flying lap by Jonathan Rea was enough to see him top the first free practice session of the World Superbike weekend at Motorland Aragon, ahead of Marco Melandri.

A return to action for the WSBK field following a lengthy seven-week break between events, Chaz Davies was the first rider to dip below the 2mins mark as FP1 got underway, but soon found himself usurped by Kawasaki's Tom Sykes, who in turn lost his spot to team-mate Loris Baz with four minutes remaining.

From here it was Marco Melandri that looked destined for the top spot with a faster lap just a minute later, only for Rea to leave it until the final seconds to pop his Honda onto the top of the timesheets with a lap of 1min 58.449secs.

Emerging a comfortable three tenths faster than Melandri, the Ulsterman will take confidence from the result around a circuit he has struggled at in the past.

Sykes recovered to third, ahead of Baz, while championship leader Sylvain Guintoli ended the session in fifth position, ahead of Ducati pair Davies and Davide Giugliano.

An unusually spaced out field to the norm, Phillip Island race winner Eugene Laverty was eighth quickest but 1.5secs off the pace, ahead of team-mate Alex Lowes, while Niccolo Canepa was the clear EVO front runner in tenth position.

With nine manufacturers competing for the first time this weekend, Bimota's much anticipated debut would see Ayrton Badovini put in a very encouraging performance on the BB3, the Italian going 15th best and fourth in class behind Canepa, Jeremy Guarnoni and David Salom.

That was enough to put Badovini ahead of WSBK returnee Leon Camier in 16th and Yakhnich MV Agusta rider Claudio Corti in 17th, while team-mate Christian Iddon was 23rd as he gets to grips with World Superbikes for the first time.