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.