Ben Spies is refusing to discount the influence of rival riders ahead of the World Superbike Championship showdown at Portimao, even though pole puts him in an ideal position to score the two wins he needs to secure the title.
Spies' outstanding qualifying record in his rookie year remained unrivalled during Superpole around the Portuguese circuit, the Yamaha rider concluding his 'Saturday commitments' with an 11th pole position in 14 races.
One of his most dominant pole positions too, proving half a second quicker than closest rival Shane Byrne, it was somewhat unexpected too following a start to the weekend in which he slipped 'under the radar'
“I'm glad I was able to take the pole, it's a good first step,” he said. “The team focused so much on race set up this weekend, that we were a little behind at first in Superpole.
"It took me a session to really get focused on holding the thing wide open. Once I got up to speed everything felt great on the bike. My pole lap wasn't perfect, but it was good enough to get the job done."
Most importantly for Spies, key rival Haga will start down in tenth place after being unable to progress beyond Q2, the Japanese rider facing a tough task now to challenge Spies for victory.
Nonetheless, Spies insists he will still face a challenge from his rivals, including Haga.
“I'm hoping for a couple of clean races tomorrow,” he added. “Ideally I'd like to get out front early to avoid any problems, but that's always a tough thing to do. I'm in a little better position with Nori having a bad qualifying session, but he's good about getting through the field early in a race, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him working up to the front.
"It's not just about me and Nori tomorrow, there are other guys, we'll just run our own race and give it everything we've got to try and win both these things.
"I'm very focused on what I need to do. I've been in pressure situations before and I enjoy the challenge of riding my best when everything is on the line.”
Spies will take the 2009 World Superbike title if he wins both races at Portimao, regardless of where Haga finishes.