Honda tops final practice as Bayliss improves

Michael van der Mark

Michael van der Mark

Pata Honda’s Michael van der Mark clocked the fastest time in the final free practice session of the opening round of the World Superbike Championship at Phillip Island.

The superbike rookie marginally eclipsed Leon Haslam’s best effort from Free Practice 3 with an impressive 1.31.721 lap of the 4.4km circuit aboard the Honda CBR1000RR.

Former world champion Tom Sykes trailed van der Mark by a mere 0.012s on the factory Kawasaki while Aprilia’s Haslam was third.

Friday pacesetter Alex Lowes was fourth for Crescent Suzuki a tenth quicker than team-mate Randy De Puniet with Jonathan Rea sixth on the sister Kawasaki.

Troy Bayliss continues to improve on his return to the championship

Troy Bayliss continues to improve on his return to the championship

Three-time world champion Troy Bayliss, on his return to the championship after six years out of the saddle, was just shy of the top 10 in 12th position.

The Australian, who encountered a fall in the session, clocked a best time of 1.33.190s as he continues to get to grips with his Aruba.it Racing Ducati 1199R.

Countrymen Jed Metcher (Race Center Kawasaki) and Matthew Walters (Pedercini Kawasaki) finished 15th and 17th respectively.

All three Australians will feature in this afternoon’s Superpole sessions having finished the opening three practice sessions inside the top 20.

Haslam secured the top spot ahead of Superpole having set the quickest time in Free Practice 3 ahead of fellow Aprilia rider Jordi Torres and former British Superbike champion Lowes.

The opening Superpole session of the season is set to begin at 2pm local time.

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