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WORLD SUPERBIKES

Sykes sets the pace at Assen on opening day

Tom Sykes has produced a final flying lap to take top spot off Jonathan Rea by just 0.003s during Friday practice at Assen in an intensely competitive FP2 which saw World Superbike points leader Alvaro Bautista in sixth place. Sykes traded top times with Kawasaki duo Rea and Leon Haslam throughout the afternoon session despite tricky conditions due to cold track temperatures, with the BMW rider notching up a 1m 35.414s to beat Rea’s provisional top time by the tiny margin to set up a potentially thrilling qualifying tomorrow at the Dutch track.

With Rea ahead of Haslam at the end of FP2, Markus Reiterberger leapt up to fourth place on the second BMW bike to see local star Michael van der Mark in fifth place for Pata Yaamah but just 0.031s off Sykes. The closely-matched front five meant Bautista, who has won all nine races so far this season, was relegated to sixth place on the Aruba.it Racing Ducati having come into the race weekend with a maximum rev limit drop of 250RPM following balancing tweaks from championship organisers.

Toprak Razgatlioglu was another to notch up a late quick lap to take seventh place for Puccetti Kawasaki ahead of the resurgent Sandro Cortese who was off the pace for GRT Yamaha in FP1. Chaz Davies ended FP2 in ninth place, but only four-tenths off Sykes at the front, with Pata Yamaha’s Alex Lowes fading to 10th place after suffering his second crash of the day with 13 minutes remaining in FP2. Eugene Laverty improved on his FP1 effort to go 11th for Team Go Eleven Ducati ahead of Pedercini Kawasaki’s Jordi Torres and lead Moriwaki-Althea Honda of Leon Camier.

Marco Melandri has continued to struggle to match the pace of the front-runners as he dropped to 14th place but in front of Ryuichi Kiyonari on the factory Honda. Hector Barbera ends his maiden Friday practice in World Superbikes in 16th as he stands in for the injured Leandro Mercado at Orelac Racing, with the Spaniard beating both Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Barni Ducati) and Alessandro Delbianco (Althea Honda).

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