Eugene Laverty got his final race weekend off to a flying start as he beat both new champion Jonathan Rea and his team-mate Tom Sykes in a tight, late battle to lead at the end of day one of the final chapter of the 2018 season in Qatar.

The Milwaukee Aprilia rider gave everything in the closing stages of FP3 to post a best of 1m 57.323s at the start of his final outing with the team, the Irishman seemingly spurred on by being unattached to a ride at present for next season and determined to show his very best at Losail. Laverty had already shown he had strong pace by topping FP1 and backing that up with second in FP2.

Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK’s 2018 title winner Jonathan Rea was just 0.183s behind as he attempts to add more records to his impressive season, with his team-mate Tom Sykes the first of the trio to top the timesheets on his way to the third best overall time after all three sessions.

Alex Lowes was fourth overall, but made no progress in FP3, his time from FP2 for Pata Yamaha remaining his best effort.

Lorenzo Salvadori made gains in the final practice to move up to fifth on the second Milwaukee Aprilia entry, nudging Loris Baz (Gulf Althea BMW Racing Team) down to sixth.

The Frenchman remained just ahead of Marco Melandri ( Racing) despite some very close times, as he pushed the Ducati to it’s limit for seventh.

Michael Van Der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) climbed to eighth while Melandri’s Team-mate Chas Davies finished Thursday in ninth and the ever improving top independent rider Torprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) completed the top ten to all move into Superpole 2.

Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team), the independent riders champion, just missed out in twelfth and will battle it out in Superpole 1 to advance, along with Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) who was minimally faster in eleventh and both Red Bull Honda entries - American Jake Gagne was the quicker of the pair in 13th.

No session was without it’s share of drama for the World Superbike riders - FP1 saw Rea fall in the first five minutes of the session, swiftly followed by Van Ver Mark, who was sent to the medical centre for a check up before being allowed to take part in the remaining practices.

Between the first two sessions Jakub Smrz was declared unfit to continue, as he continues to suffer with the injury to his shoulder picked up in Argentina.

FP2 saw Leon Camier’s crash bring out the red flag, and though he was fine and able to return to FP3 with a sore foot to claim 14th, there was a delay to clean up the track.



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