Troy Bayliss will end his career with a 26th and final pole position after timing his lap to perfection in a rain-affected Superpole session around the new Portimao circuit in Portugal.

Although the poor weather conditions from free practice had disappeared for the earlier Supersport qualifying session, heavy rain returned to the Algarve area just as Superpole got underway, prompting officials to declare a 'free' session with a maximum of 12 laps each.

With a cool climate blighting the weekend so far, some riders weren't optimistic in the circuit ever drying up by the end of 50 minutes and promptly took the decision to get a few banked laps in early in the hope that the rain would eventually get worse.

Ruben Xaus and provisional pole sitter Michel Fabrizio were the first to temper the slippery surface, a situation arguably made worse by the layout's undulations that were creating rivers across the circuit.

After around ten minutes of steady action, during which Xaus lost the back-end of his Sterilgarda Ducati and came down at the final corner, a few more riders joined the track in the hope that more rain was on the way.

Chief amongst the 'gamblers' was Bayliss, who put his experience to good use as he became the first rider to slip beneath the magic 2mins marker with a lap of 1min 58.548secs.

He was quickly followed by Brits Cal Crutchlow and Jonathan Rea, while Max Biaggi, Leon Haslam and Troy Corser were also out to try and make an impression.

However, almost as soon as Bayliss had completed his lap, the heavens opened wider and more rain began to fall, creating visibility problems and making the surface even more treacherous.

Lap times soared as riders struggled to keep their bikes upright, creating big problems for many of the riders who had chosen against coming out early in favour saving their laps until later.

It meant the order after the first 15 minutes barely changed as the chequered flag fell, with Bayliss proving 2.5secs quicker than Crutchlow, who had worked with a rather loose looking HM Plant Honda to squeeze out fellow Brit Rea by a mere four thousandths of a second. It was an excellent front row performance by both riders, regardless of the conditions.

Biaggi was probably the most pleased to see the return of rain as leapt up from a provisional 16th on the grid to also snare a position on the front row of the grid.

Fabrizio will be disappointed with fifth having been the standout in the dry, although he remains well placed to put in a good showing in the races. Haslam made it an excellent day for the Brits as he snatched sixth, ahead of Corser and Xaus, the latter proving just how bad conditions had gotten by remaining eighth despite his early fall eliminating him from the rest of the action.

There were some small improvements to be made though as riders threw caution to the wind - or, in this case, the mud that was drifting across the circuit in the braking areas - in the final stages, with Regis Laconi lifting himself and the PSG-1 Kawasaki up to a fine ninth at the death.

He will start ahead of Noriyuki Haga, who paid the price for not getting out on track sooner, while Carlos Checa had to put in several consecutive laps at the end in order to secure a respectable 11th.

Yukio Kagayama was the only other rider to fall in the session, the Japanese rider compounding a dismal session for the Suzuki team as they claimed 13th, 15th and 16th in the order of Kagayama, Max Neukirchner and Fonsi Nieto. Ayrton Badovini will start 14th on the Pedercini Kawasaki.

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