Laconi tops final qualifying

Regis Laconi has risen to the fore during the final World Superbike qualification session at Assen after a fine late lap saw him seize the initiative off Ducati counterpart Noriyuki Haga.

The Frenchman, who has been a consistent threat over a single lap in several sessions so far this season, moved in front with less than five minutes remaining to record a time of 1min 38.714secs, the fastest lap of the weekend thus far.

It had previously looked as though Haga would take the upper hand into Superpole after making a substantial improvement on his provisional effort to leap from 12th to first after just 20 minutes of the session.

Retaining that position until Laconi went quicker, Haga still comes away one hundredth of a second quicker than Ben Spies, who was one of a few riders not to lower their provisional times.

Jakub Smrz did, however, make a small improvement on the Guandalini Ducati to retain his initial front row slot, ahead of Michel Fabrizio and Ryuichi Kiyonari. Suzuki pair Max Neukirchner and Yukio Kagayama followed in seventh and eighth, while Carlos Checa and Tom Sykes completed the top ten.

Elsewhere, as well as Sykes, four more British riders will get another chance to shine in Superpole having made it into necessary top twenty positions, with Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam, Shane Byrne and Tommy Hill going 11th, 12th, 13th and 20th quickest respectively.

Stuart Easton, however, will start 23rd. The WSBK debutant had been on the cusp of the top twenty in the closing stages, but would eventually fall short by half a second on the Kawasaki SRT. Nonetheless, he still has the kudos of out-qualifying his former race winning team-mate Makoto Tamada by half a second on his first attempt.

While not one of the five Kawasaki riders were able to reach the top twenty, BMW and Aprilia made it through, although the latter could only manage the 17th and 19th best times with Shinya Nakano and Max Biaggi.

Special mention, however, should go out to Brendan Roberts, who hauled himself up from a provisional 21st to go 15th quickest on the second Guandalini Ducati, while Karl Muggeridge clung onto 18th position to reach Superpole for the first time on the Celani Suzuki.

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