Jonathan Rea finished second fastest as free practice got underway for the final round of the World Superbike Championship on Thursday in Qatar.
The opening race under the floodlights at the Losail International Circuit will take place on Friday (18:00 BST) in a change to the usual weekend format, with the final two races of 2019 scheduled on Saturday.
Rea has already safely secured a record-breaking fifth successive world crown after unexpectedly putting the outcome to bed at Magny-Cours in France last month, but the 32-year-old will be aiming to sign off on a winning note this weekend.
The Kawasaki rider, who added another two wins to his season tally in the penultimate round in Argentina a fortnight ago, topped the times in FP1 by 0.1 seconds from Toprak Razgatlioglu (Puccetti Kawasaki).
However, Welshman Chaz Davies – a two-time winner at Losail – posted the fastest lap overall as he moved to the forefront of the time sheets on day one, clocking a lap in 1m 57.449s on the Aruba.it Ducati, which left him 0.273s ahead of Rea.
“I had a good day and we understood the tyre options for the weekend a little bit,” said Rea.
“The track rubbered in pretty fast and FP1 was fast already and in the second session we worked on our consistency and pace.
“I feel quite good and the bike is working really well where I need it to work but in some areas I just need that little bit more turning, especially in the fast areas of the course; I’m putting too much stress on the tyre and using too much angle to make the bike turn,” he added. “But for the first day I feel quite good.”
Spain’s Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Ducati), who won the opening race in Argentina last time out was third quickest, two-tenths ahead of Razgatlioglu.
Dutch rider Michael van der slotted into fifth on the Pata Yamaha ahead of Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad).
Eugene Laverty was 10th fastest on the Team Go Eleven Ducati as the Co. Antrim man enters his final weekend with the Italian team before switching to the factory BMW squad alongside Sykes for 2020.
FP3 takes place on Friday from 13:00 BST with Superpole at 15:30 BST. Race one is then due at 18:00 BST.
On Saturday, the Superpole race will be held at 14:00 BST with race two at 18:00 BST, bringing the season to a close.