Eugene Laverty made a flying start during first qualifying for Sunday’s opening World Superbike round as the Aprilia star put his factory RSV4 on the provisional front row.
Laverty was second fastest at Phillip Island behind fellow Aprilia rider Michel Fabrizio on the Red Devils Roma-backed machine, with nothing between the pair at the top of the timing charts.
Fabrizio’s best lap of 1m 31.317s was marginally faster than the Northern Ireland contender’s fastest time during the session of 1m 31.329s on an ultra-competitive opening day, with one second covering the first 13 competitors.
BMW’s Marco Melandri was third followed by Leon Camier on the Fixi Crescent Suzuki and Melandri’s teammate, Chaz Davies, on the second Goldbet S1000RR.
Pata Honda’s Jonathan Rea was 10th on Friday, two tenths of a second behind new teammate Leon Haslam in sixth.
Laverty, who has assumed the role of Aprilia’s number one rider this year following Max Biaggi’s retirement, was pleased with his lap time but says consistency is key.
“My single lap is good, but the key is to maintain consistency for the entire race. There are a lot of riders who don’t stand out in the single lap but they’ve got an excellent race pace, and we’re also doing well in that department,” said the 26-year-old.
“I don’t have any particular problems and even when I’m lapping fast I’m careful not to wear the tyres quickly so that helps me to be consistent.”
Rea, whose fastest lap was 1m 31.884s, also improved in the afternoon session but is seeking extra pace for a single flying lap to secure a prominent position on the grid.
“We still need to do more work with old tyres but we’re not so far away on used tyre pace,” Rea explained. I feel we still need to do some work to get an out-and-out lap time.”
Dublin’s Jack Kennedy, making his World Supersport race debut on Sunday, was an excellent fifth on the Rivamoto Honda.
WSBK times (Q1): 1. M Fabrizio (Aprilia) 1m31.317s; 2. E Laverty (Aprilia) 1m31.392s; 3. M Melandri (BMW) 1m31.539s; 4. L Camier (Suzuki) 1m31.608s; 5. C Davies (BMW) 1m31.638s; 6. L Haslam (Honda) 1m31.687s; 7. T Sykes (Kawasaki) 1m31.754s; 8. D Giugliano (Aprilia) 1m31.793s; 9. S Guintoli (Aprilia) 1m31.863s; 10. J Rea (Honda) 1m31.884s.