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Kawasaki has kicked off the ninth round of the 2015 World Superbike Championship in style with Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes heading up the timesheets in first free practice at Laguna Seca.

The Ulsterman, who arrives Stateside with a mammoth 133 point lead in the overall standings having won 11 of 16 races in 2015, moved top in the final three minutes to edge out his closest rival and team-mate Sykes by just over a hundredth of a second.

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The late Kawasaki charge came at the expense of Chaz Davies, who had held the top spot for the majority of the session before being bumped down to third, the Welshman heading up fellow 1199R riders Niccolo Canepa on the Althea-prepared machine and Davide Giugliano.

Despite causing a red flag with 15mins to go due to a technical issue, Ayrton Badovini retained a fine sixth fastest on the BMW Italia S1000RR, ahead of leading PATA Honda rider Sylvain Guintoli and the fastest of the Aprilias, Leon Haslam in eighth place.

A circuit he knows well from his days in MotoGP, Randy de Puniet squeezed into the top ten on the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki in ninth, just ahead of team-mate Alex Lowes.

Elsewhere, Leon Camier - who arguably earned his current MV Agusta ride on the back of a one-off outing with the manufacturer at Laguna Seca last season - was 12th fastest, ahead of Laguna Seca debutant Michael van der Mark.