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Jonathan Rea left it late to post the fastest time of the day as he led the way in a tightly packed leading quartet in World Superbike FP2 at Imola.

The Northern Irishman was trailing the returning Davide Giugliano with moments to spare before his late lap sent him to P1 with two tenths of a second in hand over the Italian.

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There was late drama in the session as Tom Sykes looked to be on course to better his Kawasaki team-mate's time until a small mistake at the final left-right chicane lost him valuable tenths. Still, 29-year old Sykes halved Rea's overall advantage to sit 0.17s in arrears.

A tight session in which the two Kawasakis and Racing Ducatis of Chaz Davies and Giugliano were separated by 0.03s until the last fifteen minutes, the returning Giugliano's performance will be a huge confidence boost after two months on the sidelines.

Only Leon Haslam could lap within a second of the leading quartet as he led a much-improved Alex Lowes in sixth. Voltcom Crescent Suzuki's Lowes was nearly two seconds off the fastest time in FP1 but narrowed that margin down to 1.3s in the afternoon.

Close behind came Ayrton Badovini (+1.38s), who consolidated a strong day inside the top ten, David Salom (+1.7s) and Leandro Mercado, who crashed on his first flying lap on Friday morning.

Although his machine romped to a double victory around Imola a year ago, Sylvain Guintoli was stranded in tenth aboard his Pata Honda CBR1000RR. Team-mate Michael van der Mark didn't fare much better, the Dutchman ending the day with the 13th fastest time.