Testing for the 2009 World Superbike Championship is underway at the Portimao circuit in Portugal, with Ben Spies hitting the headlines on day one as he set a searing pace.

A number of unfamiliar faces are gracing the pit lane this week, with the likes of Yamaha, Sterilgarda Ducati and WSBK returnees Aprilia all out on track to give their new riders a taste of what to expect in 2009.

Yamaha welcomed all-new pairing Tom Sykes and Ben Spies to the fold with a trial run on the highly anticipated 'uneven-firing' R1, with both riders swapping between the new machine and the 2008-specification bike.

Spies was particularly impressive though, the AMA Champion lapping around the 1min 44secs mark, just a handful of tenths off Troy Bayliss's race winning pace during Sunday's races. Sykes, meanwhile, was around two seconds adrift aboard the 2008 bike also, although the gap is owed to him hitting the circuit in less optimum track conditions.

Biaggi wasn't too far adrift either as he continued to get acquainted with the all-new Aprilia RSV-4, the former MotoGP racer pounding round in 1min 45.4secs. The Italian had sole use of the bike all day, with newly signed team-mate Shinya Nakano expected to step out Wednesday.

British Superbike Champion Shane Byrne was also present as he rode under Sterilgarda Ducati colours for the first time, recording a very promising 1min 45secs lap time and putting him just off the pace of Biaggi and Ruben Xaus. He was joined on track by the team's Superstock rider, Alex Polita, who will graduate to join Byrne on Superbikes next year.

Elsewhere, Leon Haslam and Roberto Rolfo completed several laps aboard the new Stiggy Motorsport Honda towards the end of the day, while Gregorio Lavilla made an appearance on the Alto Evolution bike.

In addition to the Superbike riders, several Supersport competitors were on circuit, most notably Kawasaki MotoGP refugee Anthony West, who put in his first laps aboard the Stiggy Honda.

He was joined by new team-mate Gianluca Vizziello, while Eugene Laverty enjoyed his first outing on the Parkalgar Honda. Yamaha were present too, running 2009 pairing Cal Crutchlow and Fabien Foret.



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