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The opening round of the 2013 World Supersport Championship has begun with a bang for several riders as pre-season pace setter Sam Lowes emerged quickest of a repeatedly interrupted first free practice session at Phillip Island.
Despite a remarkable five red flag periods during a session originally scheduled for 45 minutes, the Yakhnich Yamaha rider maintained his focus to emerge comfortably ahead of defending champion Kenan Sofuoglu on the Mahi India Kawasaki.
Better still, the Briton would impress further by defying the stops to set a best time of 1min 33.294secs, already six tenths faster than Joan Lascorz's lap record.
With Sofuoglu three tenths behind Lowes, yet almost a second faster than third place man Fabien Foret, the session was otherwise notable for its number of crashes, with an astonishing 12 riders taking a tumble on the recently resurfaced tarmac, including several front runners.
Prorace Honda's Gabor Talmacsi, who was sixth quickest at the end of testing this week, brought out the first red flag with a fall that kept him out of action for the rest of the session, before local rider Mitchell Carr did the same just ten minutes later.
With 15 minutes remaining, Lowes's Yakhnich Yamaha team-mate Vladimir Leonov - another potential podium contender this weekend - would cause a third stoppage, only for the red flag to emerge again just four minutes after the restart, this time for wild-card contender Josh Hook.
After a lengthy 25 minute break, the session resumed for just six more minutes when crashes involving Michael van der Mark and Alex Schacht at turn 11 and Lorini Honda team-mates Raffaele de Rosa and Alex Baldolini at turn six would finally bring a halt to proceedings with almost five minutes on the clock still to go.
Between them, Intermoto Kawasaki riders David Salom and Luca Scassa would also suffer falls – the former doing so at the final corner of a lap that would have put him in contention for the top spot -, while Fabio Menghi and Lorenzo Salvadori were others to come down.
When the session finally concluded, almost an hour after it was originally scheduled to finish, Lowes and Sofuoglu would emerge well ahead of Foret, the Frenchman a lonely third on his Kawasaki ZX-6R.
Despite their early exits, the repeated interruptions would help van der Mark, Salom, Leonov and Scassa hold onto fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh respectively, while Pata by Martini Yamaha's Massimo Roccoli, ParkinGO MV Agusta's Roberto Rolfo and wild-card rider Kevin Curtain would sneak into the top ten.