Title contender Ben Spies will take an important advantage into the penultimate round of the World Superbike Championship after producing a stunning tenth pole position of the season at Magny-Cours.
Celebrating the announcement of his MotoGP switch next season, not to mention to more recent revelation that he will make an early debut with Yamaha next month, Spies defied a fairly slow start to the session to lead the way by a sizeable four tenths of a second.
Bringing the tally of pole positions in his maiden WSBK season to double figures, Spies had kept a fairly low profile leading up to Superpole, but while Jonathan Rea laid down a impressive benchmark with five minutes remaining, the option-tyre clad Yamaha soon returned to the circuit to obliterate his effort.
Particularly quick through the more twisty second and third sectors, Spies' joy was compounded by arch rival Noriyuki Haga's failure to get alongside him on the front row.
An exciting session beyond Spies record-breaking lap, Haga bailed out of contention early on whilst sitting in second behind Rea, the Japanese rider choosing not to make a late appearance and challenge for pole position.
His absence would see him slide to fifth at the chequered flag, ironically due to Ducati Xerox team-mate Michel Fabrizio moving up from fifth to third at the death.
The Italian had been the cautious favourite for pole position having set the pace in provisional qualifying, but he didn't prove to be a front row contender until the final stages as he scrambled over the line to be just five thousandths of a second slower than Rea, the Ten Kate Honda rider reaching the front row for the third race in succession.
They will be joined by Max Biaggi, who produced a surprise turn on the Aprilia RSV-4 to make it four different manufacturers at the front of the grid. The Italian was featuring inside the top eight for the first time this weekend when he reached the shootout, Biaggi going on to prove once again of his adept ability over a single lap to qualify in a fine fourth position.
Championship leader Haga will head the second row in fifth, although he was lucky to reach the shootout at all after only scraping through in eighth position following a flurry of quick lap times towards the end of Q2.