Ben Spies has taken pole position on his World Superbike debut after smashing the lap record around the Phillip Island circuit.
The big headline following a Superpole session that was rife with notable stories up and down the grid, Spies showed exactly why he is being touted for the title in his maiden season by setting a stunning pace when it mattered.
Having maintained a fairly low profile for much of the day as he chose to keep his running to a minimum, the American only just made it into the shootout after posting the seventh quickest time in Q2.
Nonetheless, once there, the Yamaha R1 was straight on the pace as Spies became very nearly the first rider ever to breach the 1min 31secs marker around the Australian track.
Even so, his lap of 1min 31.069 slices four tenths off Troy Bayliss' existing marker, while a similar margin separates the Yamaha rider from his closest competition.
That competition came, somewhat surprisingly, from Max Biaggi who marked a superb return to WSBK competition for Aprilia by claiming second position on the grid. Although his cause was aided by Jonathan Rea's decision not to attempt a final fast lap, Biaggi was always in contention for a front row position throughout qualifying and was richly rewarded for his efforts.
Rea, meanwhile, looked to be heading for pole position having set the pace during Q1 and much of Q2, despite limiting his track time to just a couple of laps on each occasion. However, his Q3 lap of 1min 31.596secs was no match for Spies, Rea subsequently choosing to save himself by settling for what remains an impressive first full-time outing for the Supersport graduate.
Completing a front row of four different manufacturers, Guandalini's Jakub Smrz maintained his fine pace from provisional qualifying to fly the Ducati flag, as well as front a strong privateer presence throughout the new Superpole format.
A success in terms of spectacle, not least in the way it played havoc with team tactics, the new knockout system helped provide a number of big upsets, most notably Noriyuki Haga's failure to reach the top eight shootout.
In fact, the Japanese rider wasn't even close, his best proving only good enough for an eventual 13th on the grid.