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Tom Sykes demonstrated that he is no mood to roll over in the fight for second place in the World Superbike championship as he topped an incredibly tight FP1 at Magny-Cours.
A double winner around the French track in 2013, Sykes narrowly stayed ahead of recently crowned world champion Jonathan Rea in an all-British top-three that was covered by just 0.04 seconds.
Sykes currently sits 22 points behind Chaz Davies in the championship standings but looked purposeful from the off on Friday morning, clinching the top spot early on. On only his fourth flying lap, Sykes' time of 1m 38.755s was good enough to resist Rea's late time by 0.01s.
Leon Haslam was third fastest, buoyed by his fighting podium finish from a lowly fourth row qualifying spot last time out in Jerez. Having stated that he has yet to give up on the fight for third overall in the championship, Haslam was over a tenth of a second faster than Davies.
In his first appearance for the Pata Honda team since the announcement that he would make up one half of Yamaha's 2016 in the factory's return to the series, Sylvain Guintoli showed strongly at home, finishing FP1 in fifth.
His soon-to-be team-mate Alex Lowes was a place behind in sixth, a position ahead of Niccolo Canepa and two of Ayrton Badovini.
There was a full half second between the times of the first BMW man and Michael van der Mark in ninth, the Dutchman's time some 1.2 seconds off Sykes' best.
Matteo Baiocco narrowly pipped Luca Scassa – Davide Giugliano's replacement for this round – for the final top ten spot while Jordi Torres was a surprising lowly twelfth.