Ben Spies is continuing to prove how difficult he is to beat over a single World Superbike lap after cruising to a fourth consecutive Superpole at Assen.

Maintaining his perfect qualification record so far this season, Spies was in imperious form around the Dutch circuit, mastering the iconic curves to smash another record and add to his Phillip Island, Losail and Valencia feats.

Having topped three of the four sessions so far this weekend, Spies was the big favourite for pole position come Superpole, but while Max Neukirchner set the standard with a new lap record in Q1, outstanding times in Q2 and then the deciding Q3 ensured it was the American that would eventually prevail.

Spies was, however, run relatively close by second place Jakub Smrz, who produced his third front row grid position of the season with a time just a tenth adrift of Spies and three tenths up on the next rider.

Indeed, Smrz was a full two tenths quicker than anyone else in the tricky final sector, although it wasn't quite enough for the Czech rider to score a famous pole position for the privateer Guandalini Ducati team.

Despite losing time by running wide at the final corner, Leon Haslam did enough to give Stiggy Racing their first front row starting position in Superbikes, a big boost for the team following John Hopkins accident in practice yesterday.

Indeed, although his effort of 1min 38.072secs, set early on in the session, was expected to be undercut by more than just Spies and Smrz, it was still more than good enough to see off attempts by a number of other riders, seemingly hurting from having used up their option tyres in the earlier sessions.

Regarding the title race, Noriyuki Haga remains a threat to Spies in fourth position, the Japanese rider never able to match Spies' single-lap pace, but no doubt confident he can repeat his double Valencia victory from the front row once again.

A quiet final session for most of the riders as the best times tailed off, Michel Fabrizio starts fifth, with Neukirchner fading to sixth having shown pole position challenging pace in Q1 and Q2. Having only just sneaked into the shootout, Carlos Checa and Tom Sykes will start seventh and eighth having been unable to progress any higher.

As ever, the traditionally frantic Superpole session caused its fair share of upsets during the knockout phases, with Ruben Xaus and Shinya Nakano forced to start at the back end of row five after being out-performed by their rivals.

Their team-mates Troy Corser and Max Biaggi didn't fare much better, although they would have expected to do so having been amongst the pace setters at the end of Q1. Indeed, Corser and Biaggi held second and third after the opening session, but would end up 15th and tenth respectively, Corser - who has been particularly vocal in his disapproval of the new Superpole system - looking very frustrated as he climbed off his BMW.

Other losers were Regis Laconi, who was a disappointing 12th having been quickest in the run up to Superpole, while Ryuichi Kiyonari's occasionally spectacular methods on the Ten Kate Honda didn't translate to a good lap time, the Japanese rider emerging bottom of Q2 in 16th.

Of the remaining Brits, Jonathan Rea had to make do with 11th having missed part of Q2 when his lead bike came to a standstill, while a late burst from Shane Byrne was only good enough for 14th. Tommy Hill starts 17th after just missing out on progressing from Q1.

One man who did perform above expectations, however, was Karl Muggeridge, who not only reached Superpole for the first time on the much improved Celani Suzuki, but also hauled it all the way to 13th, ahead of Byrne, Corser and Kiyonari.


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