Round eight of the World Superbike championship began with nine-time winner at Donington Park Tom Sykes fastest on a surprising day of action.
The Motorrad BMW rider set a blistering pace from the very first laps in Free Practice 1, and consolidated his advantage by going even faster in Free Practice 2.
The gaps were astonishing in the opening session, as Sykes was +0.377 clear of second placed Toprak Razgatlioglu and +0.626 further back was Alex Lowes. Sykes set a best time of 1:27.733 in the afternoon session, which was unchallenged until the final minutes.
For championship contenders Alvaro Bautista and Jonathan Rea, it was tough day as both men struggled for pace and consistency.
Rea seemed to find significant improvements as the day went on, eventually finishing within one tenth of the fastest time in fourth.
Like his rival, Bautista was putting long runs together in the hope of finding a setup that can allow him to challenge come Saturday’s race one.
Although the championship leader ended the day sixth and three tenths off, the Ducati rider made a big step forward as he became more familiar with the circuit.
Along with Sykes, it was Razgatlioglu and Lowes who showed the best pace on both long and short runs. The Pata Yamaha rider finished the day second fastest and only +0.018s down on Sykes,
Razgatlioglu suffered a minor crash in the closing stages at turn eleven, but was unmoved as the top Kawasaki finishing third on the combined times.
Leon Haslam returned to form finishing the day fifth overall, while Jordi Torres of the Pedercini Kawasaki team, brought an end to a promising day for Kawasaki with tenth place overall.
Making his return to the circuit where he took his first ever wins was Michael Van Der Mark, who finished both sessions inside the top ten.
Considering the injuries suffered and lack of recovery time since Misano, Van Der Mark was extremely competitive throughout the day which bodes well for the team.