WSBK Phillip Island: Sykes begins 2016 on top, heads tight quintet

Tom Sykes leads the first World Superbike free practice session of 2016 at Phillip Island, top ten is covered by less than 0.4 seconds.
CLICK HERE for WSBK free practice (1) results from Phillip Island.

Tom Sykes posted a trademark hot lap to start his World Superbike championship challenge in determined style as he led an ultra-competitive top ten on Friday morning at Phillip Island.

The first outing in the new hour-long free practice format, Sykes was marginally faster than Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli and team-mate Jonathan Rea at the close of a session that was briefly disrupted by a light shower of rain.

Unable to post a consistent run of laps in the final preseason test that traditionally precedes the first round, Sykes' final run of eight laps included four in the 1m 31s and two in the low 32s, the fastest of which clocking in at 1m 31.543s. There was no doubting the Englishman's commitment early in the weekend, demonstrated by a slide while braking into the fearsome turn one.

Fast from the opening minutes of the morning, Guintoli was just 0.097s slower as he went someway to backing up his claim on Tuesday that “I think here we can do something.”

Building himself into the session, Jonathan Rea was a single thousandth of a second slower than Guintoli as 0.098s covered the top three riders and just 0.175s separated Sykes and Chaz Davies in fifth.

The surprise of the morning came in the form of Leon Camier, who took the MV Agusta 1000 F4 to fourth overall. Placing just 14th overall in the two-day Australian test, the Andorra resident's fastest time - that was done alone - turned several heads and pushed close friend Davies into fifth.

Nicky Hayden completed his first official World Superbike session since 2002 sixth fastest, less than a quarter of a second from the fastest time with the impressive Markus Reiterberger the best of the BMWs in seventh.

Indeed the pace of Reiterberger, making his full-time debut in Althea colours, was a marked improvement on the other S1000 RRs in the class, as injured team-mate Jordi Torres finished 13th and SMR Milwaukee runners Josh Brookes and Karel Abraham outside the top-15.

Always committed, Michael van der Mark slid his Ten Kate Honda around the 2.7 mile track for eighth, with Davide Giugliano unable to better his ninth best time of the morning at the end of the 60 minutes.

Alex Lowes, still adapting his riding style to the demands of the Yamaha R1, was tenth fastest, 0.379s slower than the fastest time of the morning.

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