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Alex Lowes has drawn first blood in the fight for the 2012 MCE British Superbike Championship after securing pole position for the series' first visit to Assen.
The WFR Honda rider came into the 'Title Showdown' as the sixth and final entrant, but sent out an early warning to his better fancied rivals that he will be a reckoned force over the three-event shootout as he paced qualifying around the Dutch circuit.
Quick in both knockout phases prior to his pole position challenge, Lowes's first attempt of 1min 37.390secs in Q3 would prove almost two tenths faster than fellow Honda rider Michael Laverty once the chequered flag wa dropped.
A good result for Laverty given he looked on course to miss the cut for Q3 before a late flyer hauled him into the top ten, the title contender will share the front row with Jakub Smrz and fellow championship rival Tommy Hill.
Offsetting his relative lack of time on the Aprilia RSV4 with his considerable experience of racing at the Dutch venue, Smrz's run to third position marks several landmarks for the Splitlath Redmond Racing team, not least the fact he has given the outfit its first-ever BSB front row start on his debut appearance in the series.
Hill, meanwhile, will get away from fourth place, just ahead of closest title rival Josh Brookes, who like Laverty was fortunate to make it into Q3 after finding himself less than a tenth from the drop zone.
The Australian will line up alongside Luca Scassa and Shane Byrne, who looked set for a pole position challenge after topping both Q1 and Q2, but after making an error on his first lap, drizzle in the closing stages of qualifying prevented him from going higher than seventh with his second attempt.
His Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki team-mate Stuart Easton completes the second row, just ahead of Tommy Bridewell, who ensured all six title contenders will start inside the top ten, and Peter Hickman on the Buildbase BMW.