Laverty to the fore as Rea is edged out in Italy practice
There was a surprise Milwaukee Aprilia one-two during yesterday's practice for the ninth round of the World Superbike Championship at Missano in Italy, local star Lorenzo Savadori stunning the field with a lap of one minute, 34.652 seconds to knock team-mate Eugene Laverty off top spot by less than half a second.
That meant that Laverty's fellow Ulsterman Jonathan Rea - going for his fourth world title in a row - was relegated to third, a thousandth of a second behind the Toomebridge man.
Rea had dominated most of the second session before being outdone by the late surge of the Aprilias.
The track was wet for the final session of the day and most riders stayed in their garages.
Qualifying takes place this morning with the first of two races this afternoon. Rea is chasing his third win in a row and is hoping to extend his 75-point lead in the series, while Laverty is looking for his second successive podium.
Meanwhile, Michael Dunlop heads the entry for the Skerries 100 - which takes place today and tomorrow - with the 18-time TT winner making his first two-wheel appearance since his Isle of Man treble a month ago.
He is the Skerries lap record holder at a speed of 111.582mph and is an eight-time winner around the 2.92-mile circuit.
William Dunlop has also confirmed his return to action this weekend along with last week's five-time winner Derek McGee, Derek Sheils - who beat Michael at Cookstown - local ace Michael Sweeney and Davey Todd.
Elsewhere, the British Superbikes are in Scotland at the newly resurfaced 1.3-mile Knockhill Circuit this weekend where PBM Be Wiser Ducati announced that Carrickfergus rider Glenn Irwin will remain with the team for the 2019 season.
This comes after he became the No.1 rider in the team following the long-term injury suffered by six-time BSB champion Shayne Byrne in mid-May.
Irwin said: "I had been in talks and I knew we were scheduled to have more talks in the coming weeks, but prior to the first practice session here at Knockhill they offered the deal for next year. I'm happy and it's good to get that out of the way early.
"The team see I'm stepping up, so I'm excited to be continuing our work together. Now it's about the rest of 2018."
During yesterday's practice Irwin was in sixth position after a small slip off at the hairpin, with brother and team-mate Andrew an excellent seventh.
Tyco BMW's Michael Laverty bounced back to form with third, a tenth of a second behind provisional pole man Danny Buchan and last year's Knockhill double race winner Jake Dixon.
Round six of the Ulster Quadcross and Sidecarcross Championships takes place today at Laurel Bank motocross track, Saintfield where Michael McAneney will look to extend his 25-point lead in the Quad series.
Gary Moulds and passenger Steve Kirwin have a 55-point lead in the sidecar class, with racing scheduled from 11am.
• John McGuinness, injured during practice for the 2017 North West 200, is set to return to racing around the Isle of Man Mountain Circuit during the Senior Classic TT in August when he will ride a 500cc Paton for Team Winfield in the four-lap race.
He said: "It's been a hard road back. After a setback I came up a few weeks short of the TT this year. I'm buzzing about the whole thing."