Jonathan Rea has kept hold of top spot on Thursday practice at the Losail International Circuit despite not improving on his outright fastest lap time which enabled Alex Lowes to close the gap, as Tom Sykes suffered an engine blowout.

The triple World Superbike champion as continue his domination in 2017 by topping both practice session in Qatar ahead of the season finale where he needs to win both races in order to set a new record for most points scored in a single season – currently held by Colin Edwards set in 2002.

Despite not improving his outright one lap pace, Rea impressed over a race simulation to produce an strong showing while Pata Yamaha’s Lowes could only close the gap to 0.259s in second place.

The second session lasted 10 minutes for Sykes before his engine expired, which forced a brief red flag stoppage, meaning he could only complete 23 laps on Thursday compared to Rea’s 41 laps.

Sykes, who needs to outscore Chaz Davies in Qatar to ensure a Kawasaki 1-2 in the World Superbike riders’ championship, did stay ahead of his the Racing Ducati rider on the timesheet with the Welsh rider’s late improvement giving him fourth ahead of the second Pata Yamaha of Michael van der Mark in fifth.

Barni Ducati’s Xavi Fores also enjoyed late gains to go sixth fastest ahead of factory Ducati’s Marco Melandri while Althea BMW’s Jordi Torres leapfrogged the Milwaukee Aprilia pair of Eugene Laverty and Lorenzo Savadori.

Savadori narrowly held on to a top ten place, and with it an automatic spot in Superpole 2, despite crashing twice in FP2 as Sylvain Guintoli missed out by 0.047s on the Puccetti Kawasaki. Leon Camier ended the day 12th fastest in final race weekend for MV Agusta before his 2018 move to Red Bull Honda – with Davide Giugliano and Jake Gagne down in 16th and 17th respectively.


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