World Superbike rookie Ben Spies lived up to every inch of the considerable expectations placed on his shoulders by blasting to Superpole victory at his very first attempt, during qualifying at Phillip Island on Saturday.
The reigning triple AMA champion took the top slot on his factory-backed YZF R1 with a time of 1min 31.069sec during the new 'knock-out' Superpole format, his lap time almost 0.4sec faster than nearest rival Max Biaggi (Aprilia).
“There was a lot of pressure on me today but first congratulations to these guys, I know how fast the lap time was and we all did a great job,” he said of his fellow front row starters. “The Superpole was really good, there was a lot of anticipation, a lot of nerves inside the pit box to get the first pole of the year.
“It's going to be hard tomorrow, with seven or eight guys up front and the real race will start eight laps from the end,” revealed the 24 year-old, who had never even seen the Australian circuit before last week. “Luckily we have a good starting spot, that's all that matters and hopefully we can be there at the end.
“Like Biaggi said, I was very surprised at how many people started doing 31s in the second session, we really had to grit our teeth in the last one and put together a good lap.”
Behind Spies and Biaggi, the Phillip Island front row will be completed by Hannspree Ten Kate Honda's Jonathan Rea and Jakub Smrz, the top Ducati rider on a private Guandalini machine.
Noriyuki Haga, pre-season favourite alongside Spies in most fan polls, will make his Ducati Xerox debut from just 13th on the grid.