Former double world champions Troy Corser and Troy Bayliss proved to be the men to beat in the opening qualifying session of the 2008 World Superbike season in Qatar, as they dominated a wind-affected first qualifying to leave their rivals wilting under the desert sun.

As the Losail International Circuit was besieged by violent gusts of wind - making set-up work a struggle - the Aussie duo were the only men capable of lapping beneath the two-minute barrier, and were split by little over two tenths of a second at the close. The Yamaha Motor Italia ace has been on-form in Doha since the word 'go' this weekend, whilst Ducati star Bayliss continues to show few ill-effects from his collarbone-breaking shunt at Phillip Island last month.

"The last tests we did here and at Phillip Island were useful for sure," Corser acknowledged afterwards, "and I've got a great feeling with the bike, so it's a good start to the season for us.

"Last year I lacked that bit of confidence with the team and the bike at the beginning of the season, but now I've got that and I'm feeling good."

"It's early days at the moment," added Bayliss, "but we're feeling reasonably comfortable on the bike. I think we have back now what we missed before - acceleration - but through the speed traps we showed that the bike is not a missile like everyone thought.

"We hope to continue this weekend and get a good setting, but it was very difficult today because of the wind. My collarbone is healing quite well; I'm not such a young guy anymore, but I'm pretty confident on the bike with it!"

Practice pace-setter Fonsi Nieto was the closest challenger to the two Troys' supremacy, albeit some seven tenths of a second shy of Corser's best effort. The Team Alstare Suzuki new boy was followed on the timesheets by Corser's Japanese team-mate and 2007 WSBK runner-up Noriyuki Haga, with compatriot Yukio Kagayama rounding out the top five for Alstare - the last man to wind up within a second of the outright pace.

Sterilgarda Go Eleven Ducati's Ruben Xaus finished the session sixth-fastest, followed by R.G. Team Ducati star Lorenzo Lanzi, the Italian rebounding well after being the only absentee from the earlier practice session.

Xaus' team-mate Max Biaggi was eighth, with endurance specialist S?bastien Lambert an impressive ninth and Max Neukirchner making it all three Alstare representatives inside the top ten.

"It's quite new for us," admitted Biaggi, who triumphed in the opening race at Qatar last year. "[It's] a new team, a new bike [and] new people. We don't have such great experience, but I've got a guy from Ducati with me and I think we are going fine.

"For the moment we are trying to [get to] know each other and what the problems with the bike are on the track. So far from the morning to the afternoon we improved a little; for tomorrow we really hope to improve and move further up!"

Further down the timing screens, erstwhile MotoGP star Carlos Checa languished in 13th spot for reigning champions Hannspree Ten Kate Honda, 2007 BSB title-challengers Gregorio Lavilla (Ventaxia VK Honda) and Ryuichi Kiyonari (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) occupied the 15th and 21st positions respectively, whilst expected challengers Roberto Rolfo (Hannspree Honda Althea) and R?gis Laconi (on the new Kawasaki PSG-1 Corse) both continued to struggle towards the lower reaches of the standings.

In World Supersport, meanwhile, former champion Fabien Foret set the early pace. The Yamaha World Supersport rider was three-tenths of a second faster than 2007 British Superbike Championship runner-up Jonny Rea, who is making his series debut this weekend.

The Hannspree Ten Kate Honda star led a group of five CBR600RR machines, with Matthieu Lagrive on the Intermoto Czech version ahead of Spanish youngster Joan Lascorz (Glaner, Italian Gianluca Nannelli (Hannspree Honda Althea) and Britain's Craig Jones (Parkalgar Racing Team).

British manufacturer Triumph have also added their name to the entry list this year, with Italian Ivan Clementi and Australian Mark Aitchison taking their BE1 Racing 675s to an encouraging tenth and eleventh spots.

Second qualifying for WSBK will take place on Friday, followed by a further free practice session and Superpole. The two races will be held on Saturday.

To see the first qualifying times in full, click here