Sylvain Guintoli led a 1-2-3 finish for Aprilia during free practice at the Superbike World Championships in Sepang on Friday. - BERNAMA
SEPANG: Aprilia riders dominated the opening day free practice for the FIM Superbike World Championship’s maiden outing at Sepang, with former MotoGP rider Sylvain Guintoli leading a 1-2-3 finish for the manufacturer under hot and sunny conditions.
The Frenchman shot to the head of the timesheets ahead of Italian Marco Melandri and Spaniard Toni Elias after clocking 2:05.096 towards the end of the second session on Friday.
Melandri and Elias, also former MotoGP riders, did not improve on their times but did just enough to ensure an Aprilia top three lockout on opening day’s action.
Guintoli endured a mixed weekend last time out at Donington Park last month.
He finished seventh after a miscalculated error in the first race but bounced back to earn a third placing in race two.
As a result, Guintoli dropped from second to fourth in the standings with 148 points – 37 adrift of the overall lead.
The 31-year-old, who raced in MotoGP from 2007 to 2011, is determined to recover in Sepang where he expects his Aprilia RSV4 to do well.
“I’m happy everything turned out well. Finally, we are on a track where we’ll be able to use the raw power of the RSV4 bike,” he said.
“Sepang is a great track, wide, fast and I know it very well from my GP days. I’ve just completed seven days of training in Sabah, which has similar heat and humidity, so the very hot and tropical conditions will not be a problem.”
Things remained tight at the front with just four tenths covering the first seven riders, with Davide Giugliano of Italy leading the best of the rest in fourth.
Championship leader and reigning world champion Tom Sykes of Britain was fifth ahead of Ireland’s Eugene Laverty, who made big gains in the closing minutes and Chaz Davies of Britain.
British rider Jonathan Rea, currently second in the overall standings, Loris Baz of France and Britain’s Alex Lowes completed the top 10 standings at the end of the free practice.
Sykes leads the championship with 185 points – 26 ahead of Rea.