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Alex Lowes has laid down the gauntlet to his Title Showdown rivals by claiming a dominant pole position for the first of three 'shootout' events at Assen.

The Samsung Honda came into qualifying as the hot favourite after dominating all three practice sessions, a status he duly lived up to as he comfortably topped both SP1 and SP2 before pumping in an exceptional 1min 36.261secs lap when it mattered.

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Well beneath the lap record he'd set earlier in the morning during FP3, Lowes was a clear four tenths up on Shane Byrne, Lowes's key title rival giving chase convincingly but still falling well short of his younger counterpart.

Joining Lowes and Byrne on the front row will be Tommy Bridewell, the Briton putting in a superb debut qualifying performance on the Milwaukee Yamaha to edge out his title-contending team-mate James Ellison in third and fourth respectively.

Producing his most convincing qualifying display of the season, Jakub Smrz will start in fifth place on the Padgetts Honda, the Czech rider putting himself into the mix with the Title Showdown riders to out-qualify Josh Brookes, Ryuichi Kiyonari and James Westmoreland in sixth, seventh and eighth respectively.

Dan Linfoot and Jon Kirkham complete the top ten as the remaining riders to reach the final phase of qualifying.

Elsewhere, there was disappointment for PJ Jacobsen, the American rookie having come into qualifying as the closest rival to Lowes on the Tyco Suzuki in practice. However, his hopes of battling for pole position ended with a technical issue that consigned him to the pit lane in SP2 and means he starts a disappointing 18th overall.

Similarly, series returnee and former WSBK runner-up Noriyuki Haga struggled to make an impression on qualifying, the new Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki recruit down in 13th.