Troy Bayliss left it till late to grab provisional pole position for the eleventh round of the World Superbike Championship at Donington Park as he led an unchanged top five from free practice.
Just as he had done in practice, championship leader Bayliss hit the top of the timesheets with only a handful of minutes remaining, although his margin for error over Ryuichi Kiyonari was down to two tenths this time.
Potentially a very important session for the riders ahead of Superpole, if the weather conditions worsen for Qualifying 2, then the top 15 riders from this session could well make up the single-lap shootout.
For the moment, the battle for a spot inside the top 16 is a fierce one as the four British wild-card riders continue to upset the regular order and leave some more fancied names scrapping over lower-than-usual grid positions.
Indeed, behind Kiyonari, Cal Crutchlow, Tom Sykes and Leon Haslam rounded out the top five positions, to give them a good shot of a front row in qualifying. Although not quite as high as they were in free practice, James Ellison and Chris Walker were still well in contention in tenth and 11th respectively.
Unusually, much of the top order was split between Ducati and Honda, with Sykes' Rizla Suzuki the only usurper inside the top 11. Behind Bayliss in first, Sterilgarda duo Max Biaggi and Ruben Xaus followed in sixth and seventh, while Carlos Checa and Gregorio Lavilla made it six Hondas inside the top ten in eighth and ninth.
Sneaking into the top 16 was Troy Corser on the best placed Yamaha, although team-mate Noriyuki Haga, who had run inside the top ten early on, will have to hope the rain stays away tomorrow if he is to improve on his 24th.
The same can be said for the Alstare Suzuki team, who only managed to get one of their riders inside the top 16 – Fonsi Nieto in 16th. With Kenan Sofuoglu, Jakub Smrz and Michel Fabrizio filling the remaining provisional Superpole slots, there will be some furrowed brows for the likes of Yukio Kagayama, Max Neukirchner and both of the PSG-1 Kawasaki riders tonight…