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Carlos Checa has given the brand-new Ducati 1199R a perfect qualifying debut by claiming pole position for the opening round of the 2013 World Superbike Championship at Phillip Island.
A tenth career pole position for the man that has won four of the last five WSBK
races to be held at the Australian venue, Checa would save his best until last as he swept to the top of the standings with his final lap.
Billed as a definitive chance to measure the new Ducati's pace over a single Superpole lap, Checa proved the 1199 is as fast as pre-season testing had suggested by circulating the circuit in a new record lap of 1min 30.234secs.
Coming just a day after claiming to have suffered 'one of the biggest high-sides' of his career in free practice, Checa's performance on the 1199 puts him in the perfect position to challenge for victory on the bike's competitive race debut. Should he achieve that, he will be repeating a feat also achieved by Troy Bayliss
on the 1098 in 2008.
Behind Checa, Eugene Laverty's last gasp lap was enough to secure him second position on the grid, just two tenths behind the 2011 WSBK
champion, while Q2 pace setter Michel Fabrizio
translated his practice pace into a strong Superpole result in third, in doing so earning Red Devils Roma its first-ever front row start.
With new regulations prompting a change to a three-per-row format for the grid, fourth place man Tom Sykes will begin his season from an unfamiliar position on the second row. Only the second time in twelve months the Kawasaki rider has not been at the front of the grid, Sykes's comparatively modest performance was determined by his decision to stay in the pit lane for the final round of laps in SP3, where he would watch Checa, Laverty and Fabrizio each undercut his best lap.
The same could be said for Marco Melandri, who set exactly the same time as Sykes, the Italian watching the timing screens to slip from second to fifth in the final seconds.
Joining them on the second row will be Sylvain Guintoli, the Frenchman starting his first WSBK
race for Aprilia from sixth.
A keenly-fought SP3 session, not least because the final nine participants are fighting over positions on three rows now, it was Leon Camier, Leon Haslam and Jonathan Rea that would find themselves at the bottom end of the order after being unable to make gains with their last efforts.
With only three riders now eliminated from the knockout phases, Davide Giugliano had a last corner wobble to blame for his failure to make it into SP3, the Italian settling for the fourth row in ninth place, ahead of Loris Baz and a disappointed Chaz Davies.
Making up row five will be Max Neukirchner, wild-card Jamie Stauffer – who suffered a crash at turn two – and Ivan Clementi, the Italian starting his first WSBK
race in seven years from 15th position.