Reigning WorldSBK Champion Jonathan Rea topped the opening free practice at a drenched Donington Park this morning, going half a second faster than team-mate Tom Sykes despite only putting in six laps.
The Kawasaki man stayed warm and dry in his garage until there were eight minutes left on the clock and immediately bounced into the top three before taking top spot with a 1’44.486 and then bettering it with s 1’44.229.
Sykes had been in total command until Rea’s exited pitlane with a 2.5s advantage early in the sesson. The Huddersfield man was the first under the 1’45s barrier with a 1’44.793 but then the still-injured Leon Camier put in a 1’46.288 to go second.
Wet-weather maestro Loris Baz hopped into third just before Rea came into the equation, setting a 1’47.191 before upping his game to a 1’45.236 which was good enough to keep him in the top tree.
Camier only did four laps and his best was good enough for fourth but two seconds off the pace. Tati Mercado ended the session in fifth place a further three-tenths further back.
Wildcard Nico Canepa was the quickest of the three Pata Yamahas in evidence this weekend, putting in a 1’46.700 for sixth place and one ahead of Marco Melandri on the leading Aruba Ducati.
Alex Lowes put his crisp-backed R1 in eighth with PJ Jacobsen and Michael Rinaldi completing the top ten.
Leon Haslam, at his home track on the Puccetti Kawasaki, was 11th on a 1’47.575 while Jake Gagnw - who first saw Donington when he did the Ron Haslam Race School last week - bounced back from a mechanical to end in 12th.
Chaz Davies finds himself down in 13th place, one ahead of wildcard Gino Rea on the OMG Suzuki with Jordi Torres in 15th. Lorenzo Savadori finished in 16th with Luke Mossey, using full electronics for the first time ever, parking the Pedercini Kawasaki in 17th.
Xavi Fores and Eugene Laverty were 18th and 19th, with Bradley Ray and Michel van der Mark not venturing out.