Noriyuki Haga has taken pole position for the penultimate round of the World Superbike Championship at Magny-Cours after a sublime lap record breaking effort in Superpole.

Haga was the last rider out on track to try and snatch pole position, but while he looked rather untidy at certain points, his speed and commitment elsewhere around the sweeping French circuit was enough for him to produce a scintillating lap time of 1min 38.444secs.

Six hundredths quicker than James Toseland's lap record from 2007, Haga is now very well placed to match the two wins he managed at Magny-Cours last season, not to mention his doubles at the Nurburgring and Vallelunga this year.

It is also Haga's first pole position of the season aboard the Yamaha Italia as he prepares for his penultimate meeting with the team before he defects to Ducati in 2009.

Elsewhere, while Haga retained his position from provisional qualifying, Superpole otherwise threw up a few surprises as the emergence of sunny weather conditions allowed the riders to push hard for the first time this weekend.

Perhaps the most impressive performance came from Fonsi Nieto, who grabbed second position on the grid aboard the Alstare Suzuki. Although the Spaniard is reputedly quick around Magny-Cours and was second fastest in free practice, single-lap qualifying has been a bane for Nieto throughout the year. Nonetheless, he was able to put that 'monkey' to one side today by very nearly claiming a maiden pole position on the Japanese bike.

He will be joined on the front row by Troy Bayliss and Carlos Checa. Bayliss had looked on course to beat Nieto, and possibly even Haga, as he emerged from the second sector with a tenth in hand. However, he would end up a tenth behind following a slight error at the final chicane.

Troy Corser could have been on pole position too, the Aussie rider showing green splits as he came up to the final sector. However, his hopes were dashed at the Lycee right-hander when he slid the Yamaha into the gravel trap and out of contention. His error means he starts 12th on the grid instead.

If Nieto's second place was a surprise, then Roberto Rolfo's fifth is likely to be considered something of a shock after the Italian rider delivered a quick and neat lap on the Althea Honda. Rolfo has shown strong pace all weekend, but fifth place remains easily his best qualifying position of the season.

He starts ahead of Max Neukirchner, although the German will be kicking himself for not getting onto the front row after an error out of the Adelaide hairpin almost shook him off the Suzuki. Recovering well to go sixth on the grid, the seven tenths he lost could have seen him up there with Nieto.

Continuing the surprising theme, David Checa was an outstanding seventh on the Yamaha France Ipone machine. The Spaniard, who many thought had only qualified for Superpole by virtue of getting a lap in before the rain came down, actually went on to improve considerably from his provisional 11th on the grid.

Max Biaggi and Michel Fabrizio sneaked into the top ten in eighth and ninth, the Italian pair having otherwise been limited by their early running order, while fellow countryman Lorenzo Lanzi sneaked into the top ten on the RG Ducati.

That displaced more fancied Ducati rider, Ruben Xaus, down to 11th, ahead of the frustrated Corser. Checa's team-mate Sebastien Gimbert will start 13th, ahead of Kenan Sofuoglu and Yukio Kagayama, the Japanese rider having a similar moment to Neukirchner at Adelaide. Gregorio Lavilla, meanwhile, was slowest of the Superpole contingent after going out onto track first.

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