Noriyuki Haga says he is unfazed at the prospect of starting on the second row for the pivotal penultimate round of the World Superbike Championship at Magny-Cours, insisting he would rather be fifth than fourth on the grid.
Haga and arch rival Ben Spies entered Superpole with literally nothing to choose between them having emerged from provisional qualifying with exactly the same lap time, but it was the American that would stretch ahead when it mattered.
Watching from the pit lane as Spies shattered the lap record on the way to a dominant tenth pole position of the season, Haga decision not to time his final flying lap later meant Jonathan Rea, Michel Fabrizio and Max Biaggi would also demote him to the second row.
Nonetheless, while it was Ducati Xerox team-mate Fabrizio's last gasp effort that would ironically drop him to fifth, Haga maintains he would rather start directly behind Spies than on the tighter inside line.
“I prefer to start from fifth position than fourth because it might allow me to make a cleaner start and take a better line into the first corner. The first qualifier that I used in the Superpole didn't help us much but the second was a bit better; I made a few small mistakes but the result isn't too bad.
Complaining of a lack of grip from the rear, Haga – a winner in France last season – is planning to use morning warm-up as an opportunity to find improvements and get back up to speed with his rivals come the races.
“Over the weekend we've been working hard to sort the rear suspension in order to improve grip and we're getting there, although we'll make a few more changes tomorrow morning in the warm-up so as to be competitive to fight for the win.”