Chaz Davies put any lingering doubts about his fitness firmly to bed by setting a fierce in first free practice for the eighth World Superbike Championship round at Laguna Seca.

The Welshman was on track for the first time since his dramatic fall and subsequent collision with Jonathan Rea on the final lap of the opening WorldSBK race at Misano three weeks ago, Davies sustaining a fracture of the transverse process of L3 (3rd lumbar vertebrae) plus a left thumb contusion.

However, having been passed fit to compete ahead of the weekend Davies showed no ill-effects of his injury by leading the hour-long FP1 session around the Californian venue almost from start-to-finish, his eventual 1m 23.425secs benchmark six tenths of a second up on the opposition.

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Eugene Laverty made a strong late improvement on his Milwaukee Aprilia RSV4 to split the two Aruba.it Ducatis of Davies and Marco Melandri in second position, with championship leader Jonathan Rea following up in fourth position.

Leon Camier competed the top five on his sole MV Agusta, ahead of Tom Sykes, Althea BMW's Jordi Torres and leading Yamaha rider Alex Lowes.

Stefan Bradl headed up Honda's challenge in ninth position, with new team-mate Jake Gagne - riding a second Honda for the first time since Nicky Hayden's passing in May - beginning his Laguna weekend with a solid 16th quickest out of 21 riders.

Elsewhere, former WSBK rider and current BSB racer Jakub Smrz - making his return to the series with Guandalini Yamaha - was last, two seconds off the next slowest rider.