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Chaz Davies has set the early pace at Motorland Aragon in windy conditions as the World Superbike championship begins its European season.

The Aruba.it Racing Ducati rider grabbed top spot with five minutes of the opening practice session remaining and after swapping quick laps with Honda Racing duo Michael van der Mark and Nicky Hayden, held on to P1 with a 1m 58.895s.

Hayden's last lap improvement secured him second place ahead of his team-mate van der Mark as Jonathan Rea enjoyed a solid start to the weekend in fourth. A similar late gain by Alex Lowes with the Pata Crescent Yamaha saw him jump ahead of Tom Sykes, who held top spot for the majority of the session, with Sylvain Guintoli in seventh.

Local rider Xavi Fores followed closely in eight as second-fastest Ducati with Leon Camier on the MV Agusta and Jordi Torres for Althea BMW rounding out the top ten.

Picking up from his race two win in Thailand last time out Sykes lead the early running from Davies and Rea, albeit over two seconds off the pace from 12 months ago, as the WSBK got back up to speed.

Both Davies and van der Mark closed the deficit to the Yorkshireman to move within two-tenths of P1 but it took until the final five minutes of the opening session for Sykes to be displaced.

With the track temperature rising throughout the session and more rubber being laid down van der Mark and Davies enjoyed a duel for the fastest time. The Ducati rider, who secured his first win on the Panigale R 12 months ago at the same venue, leapt to the top and despite late challenges the Welshman extended his advantage with a 1m 51.895s.

Elsewhere, Milwaukee's BMW Josh Brookes spent the majority of the session in the pits after returning to the garage with a suspected technical issue on his outlap. The Australian did manage to get out on track to notch up a handful of laps to jump to 17th overall.