Jonathan Rea ending world title-winning campaign with a flourish
Triple world champion Jonathan Rea ended last night on top of the World Superbike timesheets at the conclusion of the opening two free practice sessions of the final weekend of the season.
Under floodlights in the Qatari desert, Ulsterman Rea's best time was set in the opening of the two practice sessions that saw him outpace Pata Yamaha's Alex Lowes' second session time which was 0.259sec slower than Rea - who has this season's title already in the bag - with Tom Sykes third fastest a further 0.040sec back to complete the top three ahead of final qualifying and races of the year.
Rea was the sharpest performer of the opening session as the riders got to grips with the desert conditions and the floodlights, finishing seven 10ths of a second clear of Sykes, his fastest time of the two sessions - 1m 57.666secs - set in the closing moments of the hour-long session.
However in the second session Rea was unable to improve his time while Sykes' Kawasaki suffered a technical problem - his engine went pop - bringing out the red flag, which cost the Yorkshireman track time as he only managed four laps in the one-hour practice, forced to sit out the rest of the action in the garage.
After the restart Rea ended the session a 10th of a second slower than earlier in the evening as he concentrated on long race simulation run, his best a run of 10 laps all in the 1m 58s.
It was on his 25th and final lap that Lowes closed the gap to Rea with his fastest time of the evening a 1m 57.925secs that saw him second fastest, with Sykes holding on to third spot despite missing most of the session.
Eugene Laverty ended the evening ninth fastest, a second slower than fellow Ulsterman Rea with his fastest time coming in the second session, while his Milwaukee Aprilia team-mate Lorenzo Savadori completed the top 10 despite crashing twice.
Chaz Davies, in second equal in the championship with Sykes, was fourth while Lowes' Pata Yamaha team-mate Michael Van Der Mark - fresh from his MotoGP debut at Sepang - was fifth fastest with Spaniard Xavi Fores completing the top six.
The riders have a third free session early this evening followed by SP1 and 2 and then Race One is scheduled for 6pm our time.
Race two is tomorrow evening, again scheduled for 6pm our time.