Eugene Laverty says he has made a step with the Suzuki chassis during free practice for the sixth round of the World Superbike Championship, the Irishman turning in the sixth fastest time of the day.

Having spent the morning getting reacquainted with the GSX-R1000 following a stint testing with Suzuki's MotoGP outfit, Laverty ended FP1 in tenth place having taken a minor spill.

However, changes to the bike would see him forge forward in FP2 to land further up the order in sixth place, a position he says he is determined to maintain when qualifying comes around.

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"This morning we were a long way off but this afternoon we jumped up to within a quarter of a second of the top guys so our bike is working the best it has done in these hot and slippery conditions. We definitely made a step chassis wise.

"For qualifying I need to be in the top six, like I am now, I need to be on those first two rows! We need to improve the starts because that's been a real thorn in my side this year, I sometimes go backwards on the first lap and have to work hard to get back, which is too late, so that's key for tomorrow."

Another new circuit for him to get to grips with, Alex Lowes was nonetheless pleased with his first day results around Sepang, the defending British Superbike Champion declaring it a 'fantastic' venue.

"The track is good, it's nice to ride at Sepang as it's a fantastic circuit, but I didn't feel that good on the bike today, so we need to improve a lot tomorrow ahead of the afternoon's qualifying.

"I will put my head together with my Crew Chief Lez this evening to see how we can get closer to the front runners and, after good night's sleep to process what I've learnt today, I'll be raring to go for the rest of the weekend."