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Tom Sykes has laid down a convincing marker for his rivals to match during third free practice at Donington Park as he ended the first day of competition on top.

With all 'timed-for-qualifying' practice sessions held on the same day for the first time, Sykes saved his best until the third and final session, becoming the only rider to break 1min 28secs to set a best lap of 1min 27.840secs.

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Putting the Kawasaki rider - who won both WSBK races at Donington Park last season - two tenths up on Davide Giugliano, the Italian was able to hold onto second place despite his best lap coming in FP2.

Indeed, the top ten riders to progress through to SP2 automatically tomorrow would see a blend of lap times from FP2 and FP3, though there were few surprises to be had amongst the front runners.

Improving in FP3, Sylvain Guintoli was third fastest on the Aprilia, ahead of Loris Baz, who had his FP2 time to thank for keeping him in contention after binning his Kawasaki ZX-10R at turn one, the Frenchman ahead of Alex Lowes, Marco Melandri and Eugene Laverty.

WSBK Championship leader Jonathan Rea was eighth best, ahead of PATA Honda team-mate Leon Haslam, while Chaz Davies ensured the five leading manufacturers each got their two riders through in tenth, despite also taking a tumble at turn one.

Outside the top ten, Niccolo Canepa and Leon Camier lead the fight for the two remaining spots, which will be up for grabs in SP1, the top EVO riders 11th and 12th, while Christian Iddon was an impressive 13th best on the Alstare Bimota, ahead of more experienced team-mate Ayrton Badovini.

Further back, David Salom, Toni Elias, Fabien Foret, Jeremy Guarnoni, Claudio Corti and Alessandro Andreozzi will all get another shot in Superpole having managed the 15th - 20th best times.

By contrast, Romain Lanusse, Sheridan Morais, Imre Toth, Aaron Yates, Geoff May, Peter Sebestyen and Bryan Staring will make do with firmed grid spots of 21st down to 27th.