Michel Fabrizio swept to the top of the timesheets in final qualifying for the season ending World Superbike round at Portimao as the riders acquainted themselves with a dry circuit for the first time.

Following a rain-blighted first day of running yesterday, sunshine ensured Q2 would ultimately decide who makes it through to Superpole, but while most of the leading protagonists will get the chance to improve their grid position later today, it was the turn of some lesser heralded names to make their presence felt at the front of the field.

Foremost of these riders was Fabrizio, who simply dominated the session, the Italian utilising his experience of testing at the circuit last week to go fastest early on before gradually chipping away his time.

Although he was briefly bettered by Xerox Ducati team-mate Troy Bayliss, Fabrizio was the first rider to dip below 1min 44secs with 20 minutes on the clock remaining. As it happens, only one other rider was able to join him in the 1min 43secs bracket, that being provisional pole sitter Troy Corser, who leapt up the order in the final seconds to snatch second.

After a fairly anonymous day in the wet, Alstare Suzuki discovered some pace around the Portuguese circuit as they claimed the third and fourth best times courtesy of Fonsi Nieto and Max Neukirchner.

Although Nieto's effort was also in the final seconds, Neukirchner was comfortably positioned inside the top five for much of the session.

Following their strong start to the weekend, the British flag continued to fly high in the hands of wild-cards Cal Crutchlow and Leon Haslam, who were once again barely separated on their HM Plant Hondas as they head into what will be their first proper Superpole of the year in fifth and sixth places.

Jonathan Rea will also be present as he continued to front Ten Kate's effort this weekend, the Northern Irishman finishing up eighth. However, a technical problem for Chris Walker caused him to plummet from a promising provisional sixth to an eventual 28th.

Elsewhere, Regis Laconi continued his strong showing on the Kawasaki to ease into Superpole with the seventh best time, despite a fall in the latter stages, together with privateer rider Jakub Smrz and Ruben Xaus on the leading Sterilgarda Ducati.

Meanwhile, some of the more fancied riders, including Carlos Checa, Troy Bayliss, Noriyuki Haga and Max Biaggi will have the disadvantage of starting their Superpole laps early after only managing to secure 11th, 13th, 14th and 16th on the provisional grid respectively. Yukio Kagayama and Ayrton Badovini fill the remaining two places in 12th and 15th.

Of the Superpole absentees, three-time winner Ryuichi Kiyonari was the biggest casualty, the Japanese rider sitting on the cusp of the top 16 for much of the hour before eventually ending up 19th on the grid.

The fifth British rider competing this weekend, Tommy Bridewell, will start a fair on the Team NB Suzuki.