Cal Crutchlow has secured pole position for the second successive season at Croft ahead of the latest rounds of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship.
The HM Plant Honda man, who had run second to team-mate Leon Haslam during the final practice session of the weekend in the North East, posted a best time of 1min 20.386secs during the final ten minute long top-ten shootout to secure his place at the front of the field, two-tenths of a second quicker than the NW200 Ducati of Michael Rutter.
The session had started with Leon Camier emerging as the man to beat for Airwaves Ducati on a circuit which proved to get quicker as qualifying wore on. Haslam had paced the opening phase of qualifying before being deposed by Camier late on as times tumbled, but the leading riders all made it through unscathed to phase two.
Tristan Palmer could consider himself somewhat fortunate to make it to the top 20 after he suffered a fall, although he was able to return to the track to make it through, but there was no luck for Billy McConnell who failed to post a time at all for the MSS Discovery Kawasaki team. As well as McConnell, Shannon Etheridge, Aaron Zanotti, Tom Tunstall, Martin Jessopp, Kenny Gilbertson and Michael Howarth all fell at the first hurdle.
The second phase of qualifying saw points leader Shane Byrne post the quickest time, with the Airwaves Ducati man having been cleared to ride following his dramatic accident in the second Friday practice session. Despite sitting out the morning practice session, Byrne was quickly up to speed and took his place in the top-ten shootout ahead of Haslam, Crutchlow and Michael Rutter – who had suffered technical issues with his Ducati during the first phase of the session. Camier was fifth quickest ahead of Tom Sykes while Karl Harris, privateer Gary Mason, Michael Laverty and James Ellison also making it through.
Atsushi Watanabe just missed out on putting both Rizla Suzukis through to the shootout with the eleventh quickest time, with Simon Andrews, Scott Smart, Guy Martin, Jason O'Halloran, Stuart Easton, John Laverty, David Johnson, Chris Burns and Tristan Palmer completing positions twelve through to 20 on the grid.
That set the scene for the final ten minute blast to decide pole, with Rutter being the early pacesetter for the NW200 team. However he saw his chances of pole disappear as Crutchlow brought his lap-times down to secure his place at the head of the field by two tenths of a second.
"That was a good session, the HM Plant Honda was working well and I am feeling good now ahead of tomorrow,” he said. “There are two corners that I am still struggling with but we can work on that and then go for it tomorrow."
Rutter was left with second place, still a solid result after a number of technical problems and a fall in morning practice, while Byrne slotted into third ahead of a race day where he could secure the 2008 crown if results go his way.
Haslam was fourth quickest ahead of Sykes and Camier, with Harris seventh and Laverty eighth. A fine session for Mason saw him take ninth place while Ellison rounded out the top ten.