Reigning WorldSBK Champion Jonathan Rea took top spot in the opening Phillip Island free practice but had only a 0.021s advantage over works Ducati man Alvaro Bautista.
Rea put in his session-topping lap after barely five minutes of action and then proceeded to work on race distance tyre work for the Kawasaki team. Bautista carried out a similar function on the Aruba Ducati but came out with a fresh tyre with less than ten minutes left to challenge Rea’s 1’30.341, which is half a second under the lap record.
Rea’s race run comprised 12 1’31s laps with 1’30s lap - which is a little way off Bautista’s performance on the second day of testing but the Spaniard’s rear grip did fall off a cliff right at the end.
Bautista first effort carried him to 0.041s behind and then he halved the gap with a 1’30.362 but was unable to quite get ahead of the man who has gone unchallenged in the series for the last four years.
Leon Haslam, who rides the identical KRT bike to Rea, finished in third place and only 0.158s off the Irishman but a bike problem with 12 minutes remaining saw the current British Superbike Champion end his first outing in the garage.
BMW’s Tom Sykes claimed fourth place with a 1’30.664 while Sandro Cortese was top Yamaha, putting his satellite GRT bike in fifth place and half a second off the pace.
Sykes’ team-mate Markus Reiterberger placed sixth with Leon Camier heading the Moriwaki Honda charge in seventh with a 1’31.024. Michael van der mark bagged eighth on the first Pata Yamaha with Jordi Torres nicking ninth from Alex Lowes late on.
Chaz Davies, on the second works Panigale V4, clambered into tenth but it nearly a second behind his old rival. Marco Melandri is 12th and a distance behind Cortese on the same bike, Toprak Razgatlioglu bounced back from an early bike issue to finish in 13th. Eugene Laverty was just behind Ryuichi Kiyonari in 17th.