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Newcomer Alex Lowes continues to lead the way following third free practice for the 2014 World Superbike Championship opener at Phillip Island as he improved his overnight benchmark, despite a crash.

Having already caused a stir with his pace setting performance on Friday, Lowes continued to keep his more experienced rivals at bay in FP3, bouncing back from being displaced by Voltcom Crescent Suzuki team-mate Eugene Laverty early on to respond with a time of 1min 30.566secs.

His effort was enough to ensure he remained fastest of all, even if a crash late on at turn 11 would serve to hamper his momentum.

With Laverty a comfortable three tenths back in second position, FP2 ended with Suzuki holding an unfamiliar 1-2 at the top of the timesheets, while Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies in third and fourth gives the impression Ducati is joining its rival in enjoying something of a WSBK revival.

With World Superbikes adopting an all-new Superpole format to mirror that of MotoGP, FP3 (formerly known as Q2) takes on greater significance with only the top ten automatically progressing through to the pole-deciding Superpole 2 session later today.

As such, competition was typically fierce amongst the front runners, with Davies and Toni Elias seemingly destined to dispute the tenth and final spot.

However, with just a couple of minutes remaining, not only would Davies vault his way up to fourth position, assuring his place in SP2, but Niccolo Canepa on the EVO-specification Althea Ducati would also catapult to sixth place in a giant-killing performance for the 'stock' inspired machine.

His performance was good enough to secure a clear route to SP2, behind defending champion Tom Sykes, and ahead of Sylvain Guintoli, Jonathan Rea and Loris Baz. Marco Melandri, meanwhile, just avoided losing out on his automatic spot in SP2 after a crash early on forced him to miss much of the session.

Instead, Elias and Leon Haslam were the high-profile losers from FP3, the pair now forced into Superpole 1 with the top twenty riders. Despite this, they will get another chance to redeem themselves in SP1, with the two fastest riders from that session going on to progress to SP2.

Though entirely overshadowed by Canepa's performance, BMW Italia stand-in Glenn Allerton put on a notable performance in 13th place as the second highest EVO rider, ahead of Kawasaki's David Salom and Fabien Foret.

Elsewhere, Claudio Corti was 16th fastest on the MV Agusta, while Erik Buell Racing's hopes were dented by Geoff May suffering an accident that limited his track time. As such, he would slip to 22nd best, just ahead of team-mate Aaron Yates.

It means they, along with Mathew Walters in 21st and Peter Sebestyen in 24th won't progress to this afternoon's Superpole.



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