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Aprilia has emerged out of the blocks quickest following first free practice for round eight of the World Superbike Championship at Portimao, Marco Melandri leading team-mate Sylvain Guintoli.

Moving top early on, Melandri headed up the timesheets for the vast majority of the session, the Italian steadily improving the benchmark to an eventual best lap of 1min 43.880secs.

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A race winner in Portugal aboard a BMW last season, Melandri's final effort would put half a second between himself and closest rival Guintoli, the fellow Aprilia rider rising up the order in the final minutes to lead an otherwise distant challenge.

Behind them, Voltcom Crescent Suzuki enjoyed a positive start to proceedings with Eugene Laverty initially challenging Melandri for the top spot before settling for third place, the Irishman joined in the leading positions by team-mate Alex Lowes in fourth place after a late jump.

Similarly, Loris Baz made gains in the closing stages to leapfrog Kawasaki team-mate and WSBK leader Tom Sykes for fifth place, while Honda maintained the 'two-by-two' finishing order with Leon Haslam and Jonathan Rea in seventh and eighth respectively.

By contrast, it was a tough start to the weekend for Ducati, with Chaz Davies in ninth place, but more than a second off the ultimate pace, while team-mate Davide Giugliano could only manage 19th after suffering technical issues.

Rounding out the top ten and leading the EVO reckoning was Sylvain Barrier, the Frenchman - who only returned to WSBK action at Misano following four months out through injury - making up for lost time with an impressive tenth fastest for BMW.

EVO leader David Salom was 11th and second in class, ahead of Bimota's Ayrton Badovini and Christian Iddon, while Sheridan Morais and Claudio Corti completed the top fifteen.

Elsewhere, Team Toth has a new rider for this weekend with Hungarian Gabor Rizmayer riding in place of owner-rider Imre Toth on the BMW S1000RR.