Max Biaggi has assumed provisional pole position ahead of this afternoon's Superpole after coming out top in a particularly tight Qualifying 2 session in Valencia.
Remarkably, less than a second splits Biaggi in first down to Ruben Xaus
in 18th, while even Jonathan Rea finds himself a mere two tenths adrift of the top spot from a tenth place mid-field position.
Setting up Superpole to potentially be one of the closest yet, all but one rider would improve their lap times from Q1 – the exception being erstwhile pace setter Carlos Checa
-, with Biaggi getting the nod on his final lap by two thousandths of a second.
Indeed, while Checa may not have improved his personal best, his Friday effort of 1min 34.220secs still kept nearly everyone at bay until Biaggi eked ahead at the death.
Nonetheless, things continue to look good for the Spaniard, who posted a series of quick lap times in the 1min 34secs bracket, and Ducati as a whole with six of their machines once again breaking into the top eight.
Jakub Smrz and Shane Byrne shadowed Checa once more in third and fourth, albeit much more closely this time, while Leon Haslam held sway in fifth position, eight hundredths off Biaggi.
Despite slipping out of the top ten as the session reached its latter stages, Michel Fabrizio
and Noriyuki Haga
fought their way up to sixth and seventh again, the Ducati Xerox pair lighting up the second sector, even if they would fade as the lap wore on.
Lorenzo Lanzi maintained his presence on the DFX Ducati – a bike that started on the front row in the hands of Regis Laconi
last season – in eighth, while Sylvain Guintoli popped up just behind on the second Alstare machine in ninth.
Those languishing further back can at least take heart from the closeness of the lap times, with Yamaha in particular hoping they can find a few extra tenths to improve on their current 13th (James Toseland) and 15th (Cal Crutchlow).
Further back, almost as entertaining was the fight for who would grab the 20th and final Superpole spot, with four riders all peaking in that position as the session wore on.
In the end, it took a strong final effort from Sheridan Morais on the Echo CRS Honda to qualify for this afternoon's run-out, denying Matteo Baiocco, Roger Lee Hayden and Simon Andrews, the latter unable to recover from the time lost during Q1 as he starts 23rd on the factory Kawasaki.