Cal Crutchlow's maiden World Superbike outing at Donington Park continues to go from strength to strength after he snatched the top spot heading into Superpole.

Although the terrible weather conditions mean Superpole could become another free session later in the day, Crutchlow's achievement cannot be underestimated as he surged to a lap some three hundredths quicker than Ryuichi Kiyonari.

Setting it just as the heavens opened for a very heavy shower twenty minutes from the chequered flag, Crutchlow led a Honda 1-2-3, with HM Plant team-mate Leon Haslam slotting into third, three tenths adrift.

Most riders improved their lap times from yesterday's sessions, with a few notable exceptions, including original pole sitter Troy Bayliss and Tom Sykes, although the difficult conditions meant they slipped to just fifth and seventh respectively.

Instead, it was Kiyonari that drew first blood, the Japanese rider producing a spectacular looking lap to lower Bayliss' best mark by six tenths. A neater second lap would take another tenth off. However, even he couldn't resist Crutchlow's effort, which came just after the half-way point, although Kiyonari's opportunity to respond would be scuppered by the worsening weather conditions.

After two falls yesterday, Troy Corser rediscovered his confidence on the Yamaha to leap up the leader board to fourth, while team-mate Noriyuki Haga proved the biggest mover of all, the Japanese rider vaulting up from 24th to sixth by the end of the hour.

Despite the possibility of an unusual order emerging from the rain, the top 16 still had a familiar look to it, with Carlos Checa, Max Biaggi and Michel Fabrizio rounding out the top ten, while Ruben Xaus, Jakub Smrz and Max Neukirchner will also get another chance to shine after sneaking into 11th, 14th and 16th respectively.

Paul Bird will be delighted to see both of his bikes reaching Superpole, with Gregorio Lavilla proving particularly impressive as he persevered with the weather and set his best time on his last flying lap. He was 13th quickest.

His last second move up the order bumped David Checa out of the reckoning, but with one Ten Kate Honda, two Alstare Suzukis and two PSG-1 Kawasakis missing the cut, there were several furrowed brows up and down the pit-lane.

Meanwhile, three riders, Christian Zaiser, newcomer Matt Lynn and Luca Morelli, have all failed to qualify inside the 107 per cent time and will need a steward's dispensation now to race.

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