Max Neukirchner opened up the Qatari World Superbike weekend with the quickest time in free practice as he and Suzuki continue to make their presence felt at the head of the field.

The German, who holds second in the standings following the first round of the season in Australia, was a tenth faster than his closest rival, Phillip Island race winner Ben Spies.

An impressive showing from the American, who is visiting Losail for the first time, Spies was again showing himself to be a quick learner by pumping in a better lap time than the majority of his rivals who have previously visited.

For the most part, the leading order was made up of those who have raced in Qatar before, although Jonathan Rea was an impressive third quickest on his first experience around the circuit on a Superbike.

Ten Kate team-mate Ryuichi Kiyonari began to put the disappointment of his non-scoring Australia weekend behind him to go fourth, ahead of privateer star Jakub Smrz, who was once again Ducati's leading representative.

Japanese pair Yukio Kagayama and Shinya Nakano followed in sixth and seventh, while BMW will be pleased to see Troy Corser up in eighth on the weekend they assumed would prove somewhat difficult. It also meant six of the seven manufacturers featured on the provisional first two rows.

Early championship leader Noriyuki Haga put in a slow start to go ninth best, while Tom Sykes rounded out the top ten on the second Yamaha.

Of the other Brits, Shane Byrne and Leon Haslam were 11th and 13th quickest, while Tommy Hill was 19th.



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