2009 World Superbike Championship leader Noriyuki Haga looks to be squaring up for another three-way battle with Ben Spies and Max Biaggi after finishing a close third during Valencia first qualifying.

Haga finished the opening day in Spain just 0.132sec from Biaggi's Aprilia and a mere 0.001sec from Spies' Yamaha. Spies has won the last three races in a row to close within ten points of Haga, who won on his Ducati Xerox debut in race one at Phillip Island.

"Today has gone well," said Haga. "I did two good long-runs on different tyres and am satisfied with the results, we can choose which tyre we want to use for the race. Tomorrow we'll try a different setting to try to improve through the corners and make things smoother, also saving the tyres somewhat. My lap times have been very consistent all day and we've had no real problems."

Team-mate Michel Fabrizio, who suffered a double DNF at Qatar, also put on a solid opening day display, lapping 0.335sec slower than Haga for a provisional fourth on the grid.

"I would say that for the moment things are under control," declared the Roman. "We've got the race pace and although I was lacking a certain level of grip at the front, I'm quite happy with my times and with the feeling I have on the bike. Towards the end of the last session we found a rear solution that I liked but I hope to make further improvement tomorrow."

Final practice and Superpole takes place on Saturday.